Social cognition and socio-emotional functioning

Bakopoulou, I., & Dockrell, J. E. (2016). The role of social cognition and prosocial behaviour in relation to the socio-emotional functioning of primary aged children with specific language impairment. Research in developmental disabilities, 49, 354-370.

Aim of the paper:

Studies have shown that children with DLD have difficulty in socio-emotional functioning, but the reason behind this is unclear. Language ability alone cannot predict socioemotional functioning and other factors, such as age and social cognition, seem to play a role as well. This study aims to understand the relationship between social cognition, language ability, cognitive ability, prosocial behaviour, and socio-emotional functioning of primary school children with and without DLD.

Social cognition: Behaviour related to the understanding of emotional or mental states in others. In this study, four aspects of social cognition are assessed: labelling emotions, identifying emotions, inferring the cause of emotions, and resolving conflict.


What they found:

  • Children with DLD performed worse than children with DLD in all social cognitive tasks: Children with DLD are less skilled in understanding other people’s emotions. The children with DLD were also worse at knowing how to manage conflict situations.

  • Children with DLD have more difficulties in socio-emotional functioning compared to children without DLD. This includes conduct problems, hyperactivity, emotional symptoms and peer relationship Problems

  • Lower social cognitive abilities and reduced prosocial behaviour predicts more socio-emotional difficulties in children with DLD. Language ability did not predict socio-emotional functioning in children with DLD.

  • Age did not affect social cognition, prosocial behaviour, or socio-emotional difficulties of children with DLD.

What does this mean?

The findings of this study suggest that children with DLD process social information differently to children without DLD. Future research should look more at the reasons for these difficulties. When children have difficulties understanding how other’s feel, or problems managing conflict situations, they might struggle with their friendships. These findings show that DLD impacts on more than just language skills.

The authors find that social cognition and prosocial behaviour predicts the socio-emotional difficulties experienced by children with DLD. Parents and professionals should keep in mind that children with DLD may need support to develop their social cognition and prosocial behaviours. This finding is supported by recent research that shows that higher levels of prosocial behaviour may be protective against psychosocial difficulties.

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.