Rates of re-offending in young offenders with undiagnosed DLD

Winstanley, M., Webb, R. T., & Conti‐Ramsden, G. (2020). Developmental language disorders and risk of recidivism among young offenders. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Aim of the paper:

Previous research tells us that the percentage of young offenders with undiagnosed DLD is higher than expected. Yet, this research did not look into whether the offenders are reoffending or first time offenders. This paper looks at whether DLD is related to reoffending by following up on 146 young offenders to assess how many of them have undiagnosed DLD and how many of them reoffend within a 52-week period.

What they found:

  • 60% of the youth offenders had DLD, but their DLD was undiagnosed. Only 2 participants saw a speech and language therapist during primary school years.

  • 46% of the participants reoffended. 62% of participants with undiagnosed DLD reoffended, while 25% of participants without DLD reoffended. Participants with undiagnosed DLD are more likely to reoffend compared to participants without DLD.

  • Factors commonly associated with reoffending, such as nonverbal IQ, age of first offence and adversity, could not account for the higher rates of reoffending for participants with undiagnosed DLD.

What does this mean?

This paper shows that the portion of young offenders with undiagnosed DLD is above average. Young offenders with undiagnosed DLD are more likely to reoffend compared to young offenders without DLD. The author suggests that young offenders with DLD may be perceived as rude or lazy, as they fail to follow demands of the youth justice system due to their language limitations. This may disadvantage the young person when facing the youth justice system in the future.

It is important to note that this study looked at undiagnosed DLD. The majority of these young offenders did not receive language interventions that could help them improve or even understand their language limitations. Previous research from the same authors tells us that young people who received diagnosis and intervention for DLD are less likely to be in trouble with the police. So, early assessment and intervention for DLD are highly encouraged. Offending behaviour seems to be only increased in individuals with undiagnosed DLD.

Where can I read this paper?

This paper is open access, which means everyone can read it.

Please click here to find the full paper.