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Social skills and mental health in adolescence

Forrest, C. L., Gibson, J. L., & St Clair, M. C. (2021). Social Functioning as a Mediator between Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) and Emotional Problems in Adolescents. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(3), 1221. MDPI AG. Retrieved from

Aim of the paper:

Children and young people with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) often struggle with making friends and experience feelings of low mood. However, it is not clear how these social and emotional difficulties develop, as they are not directly linked to language. In this study parents and adolescents with and without DLD were asked questions about how they socialise with others and about their mental wellbeing.

This paper aimed to see if adolescents with DLD differed to adolescents without DLD in terms of their social skills and mental wellbeing. This paper also looked at whether social problems could explain some of the emotional problems that adolescents with DLD are said to experience.

What they found:

  • Parents in the DLD group rated their children as experiencing significantly more peer problems and emotional problems than parents in the typical language developed (TLD) group.

  • Surprisingly, adolescents with DLD did not perceive themselves to have significant difficulties with social or emotional problems. In fact, the TLD group reported that they argued with their friends more than the DLD group.

  • Both groups reported similar feelings of mental wellbeing and experienced similar feelings of support from their friends.

  • The DLD group attended fewer social clubs than the TLD group. Young people with DLD might be missing out on socialising opportunities.

  • Parent-rated peer problems explained a high proportion (69%) of the emotional problems in the DLD group.

What does this mean?

The findings of this paper suggest that parents and professionals need to support the social development and mental wellbeing of adolescents with DLD. The findings of this paper also suggest that one way to lower emotional difficulties might be to address social difficulties in young people with DLD. Clinicians may need to help young people with DLD with their friendships and emotions, as well as their communication skills.

The evidence that adolescents do not report significant social or emotional difficulties surprised the authors. They give many reasons for this, such as young people with DLD having difficulties with self-reflection. More research is needed to find out how young people with DLD perceive their own social and emotional skills.

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.


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