Peer social networks and DLD

Chen, J., Justice, L. M., Rhoad‐Drogalis, A., Lin, T. J., & Sawyer, B. (2020). Social networks of children with developmental language disorder in inclusive preschool programs. Child development, 91(2), 471-487.

Aim of the paper:

Previous studies have suggested that children with DLD are more likely to struggle in social interactions and peer relations. As a result, the chances of experiencing peer rejection and victimization is concerning. This paper aims to understand the peer social network of children with DLD with their typically developing classmates in an inclusive preschool classroom.

Peer social network: play interactions formed by children within a classroom.

What they found:


  • Stronger language ability and communication skills within a social context were related to more social network ties of a child. The relationships were weak but statistically significant.

  • Children with DLD had smaller social networks than typically developing children, and they tended to interact with classmates who also had DLD.

  • Children with DLD were more likely to be isolated from the classroom social network. 37% of children with DLD in this study were experiencing isolation, as compared to 18% of typically developing children.

What does this mean?

The findings of the paper raise concerns about the peer social networks of children with DLD, as there are nearly twice as many children with DLD experiencing isolation than typically developing children in their preschool years. The 37% rate of peer isolation in children with DLD is similar to the rate of peer interaction problems seen in older children with DLD in other studies. This suggests that problems with peer interaction commonly seen in children with DLD may appear as early as the preschool years and are likely to persist throughout childhood.

Children’s peer relationships can influence their academic and social outcomes. It is important for educators to be aware of the problem of peer rejection and isolation for children with DLD. Interventions that promote social competence and social problem-solving skills may be introduced to help children with DLD develop positive peer interactions.

Where can I read this paper?

This paper is not open access so we cannot provide a link at this time.

If you wish to read the full paper, please email E-DLD@bath.ac.uk.