Investigating the pathways between Developmental Language Disorder and increased social and emotional difficulties in adolescents

  • Claire Forrest

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Developmental language disorder (DLD) affects approximately 7% of the population and is defined as a difficulty comprehending or expressing language that cannot be explained by any hearing impairment, intellectual disability or autism diagnosis. This thesis examines the pathways between DLD and increased socioemotional difficulties in adolescents. The literature review (Chapter 1) discusses potential models to explain how this relationship develops, before proposing three new models to be tested in the empirical studies of the thesis.
Investigating the adaptation model, Chapter 2 finds that teacher-rated peer problems partially mediate later parent-rated emotional problems in adolescents considered at risk of DLD (rDLD) in a population cohort. These findings were replicated in cross-sectional clinical study (Chapter 3) with parent-rated peer problems fully mediating concurrent parent-rated emotional problems. The following three chapters test the proposed models. First, by demonstrating poor social cognition abilities in a cross-sectional study of adolescents with DLD using the Social Attribution Task (SAT) (Chapter 4), then by exploring the mediating effect of performance on a novel social cognition task, the Social Evaluation Learning Task (SELT) (Chapter 5). Finally, the moderating effect of language difficulties on the relationship between emotion regulation, peer problems and emotional problems is investigated in a longitudinal population cohort (Chapter 6).
The findings from each study are discussed in Chapter 7. Overall, the thesis replicates previous findings that young people with DLD are at increased risk of anxiety and depression compared to their peers. Furthermore, it extends the literature by using population cohorts and investigating social cognition and emotion regulation as predictors for increased socioemotional problems. Language interventions for DLD may do well to incorporate more aspects of socioemotional development to tackle additional difficulties that individuals with DLD may face.
Date of Award19 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSarah Halligan (Supervisor) & Michelle St Clair (Supervisor)

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