A cross-lagged analysis of emotion regulation, peer problems and emotional problems in children with and without early language difficulties: Evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study

Claire Forrest, Jenny L Gibson, Sarah Halligan, Michelle St Clair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: Adolescents with a history of language difficulties are at risk for increased social and emotional difficulties; however, the pathways involved are unclear. Here we examine the contribution of poor emotion regulation by comparing longitudinal data from children at risk of Developmental Language Disorder (rDLD) and the general population (GP). Method: Data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) were analysed at age 3, 5, 7, 11 and 14 years. The rDLD group (children with parent-reported difficulties and/or a score -1.5SD on Naming Vocabulary subtest at age 5) was compared to a GP group on parent-reports of emotion regulation, peer problems and emotional problems. Results: In line with the established literature, increased socioemotional problems in individuals with language difficulties were reported. Poor emotion regulation consistently predicted subsequent peer and emotional problems throughout development in both groups. Stronger cross-lag effects were found in the rDLD group for poor emotion regulation at age 3 predicting age 5 emotional problems, and age 5 emotional problems predicting age 7 emotion regulation difficulties. Stronger reciprocal cross-lag effects were also observed in the rDLD group between peer and emotional problems at age 3 and 5. No significant group differences were found in adolescence. Conclusions: Poor emotion regulation makes a small but significant contribution to later peer and emotional difficulties and this relationship is stronger in children at risk of DLD. Early reciprocal peer and emotional difficulties are also stronger in the rDLD group but these effects dissipate in mid-childhood. Nevertheless, the consistent relationship between early emotion regulation difficulties and socioemotional problems throughout development warrants further investigation in individuals with lower language skills.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1227-1239
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research (JSLHR)
Issue number4
Early online date21 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2020

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