Social stress in adolescents with DLD

Wadman, R., Durkin, K., & Conti-Ramsden, G. (2011). Social stress in young people with specific language impairment. Journal of adolescence, 34(3), 421-431.


Aim of the paper:


Previous research has suggested that young people with developmental language disorder (DLD) can experience a range of social difficulties. In adolescence, the importance of peer relationships and friendships increases, playing a key role in their lives. However, little is known about how adolescents in particular feel when interacting socially. This study aimed to investigate the level of social stress experienced by adolescents with and without DLD. The relationship between social stress and language ability, perceived social skills, and perceived social acceptance were also examined.


Key term:

Social stress: feelings of discomfort or anxiety that individuals may experience in social situations, and the associated tendency to avoid potentially stressful social situations.


What was found:


  • Adolescents with DLD reported experiencing significantly more social stress compared to those without DLD.

  • There was no significant difference between adolescents with and without DLD in their perceived social skills and perceived social acceptance. Both groups judged themselves as having adequate social skills and positive social acceptance.

  • Expressive language ability was negatively associated with social stress, suggesting that the lower the expressive language ability is, the higher the social stress.

  • There was no significant correlation between receptive language ability and social stress.

  • Perceived social skills and social acceptance scores were predictive of social stress, in that poorer scores predicted more social stress.


What does this mean?


The findings suggest that social stress is an important issue for adolescents with DLD, even for those who rate themselves as having relatively adequate social skills and positive social acceptance. As expressive language did not predict social stress when perceived social skills and perceived social acceptance was taken into account, social stress experienced by adolescents with DLD is not simply due to their language difficulties. Therefore, further research is needed to investigate what factors contribute to the increase in social stress in adolescents with DLD. The authors suggested that it may be useful to provide school-based interventions aimed at reducing feelings of stress and anxiety in social situations for adolescents with DLD.


Where can I read this paper?


This paper is not open access. If you wish to read the full paper, please email E-DLD@bath.ac.uk and request a copy of the paper.