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Language link with mental health determined

Posted August 7, 2013
Photo courtesy of chefranden/Flickr

Photo courtesy of chefranden/Flickr

Children with language impairments are more likely to develop mental health issues during later childhood or adolescent years, new research has found.

ANU Research School of Psychology researchers Shaun Goh and Associate Professor Richard O’Kearney extracted data from a scientific database of research articles, some dating back to the 1980’s.

The statistical analysis found that children with specific language impairments (SLI) were two times more likely to be diagnosed with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity or emotional or behavioural difficulties than children with no known language problems.

The diagnosis of SLI is determined when a child displays difficulties using and understanding verbal communication, when there is no other obvious reason present.

To date there are no estimates of prevalence of SLI in Australia, PhD candidate Mr Goh said.

“The only estimates on SLI currently available in Australia are drawn from American estimates,” he said.

“Using these estimates it is thought that today about two to three children, based on a classroom of 30 students, have an SLI.”

Mr Goh is hoping this research and future work will help establish a better understanding of what can be done to improve the mental health status of SLI children and adolescents.

“As part of my PhD I am currently conducting an online research study to better understand this,” he said.

Knowing numbers can help with research and funding in the field, but Mr Goh said interventions are equally as important.

“Resilience, emotional competencies and problem-focused coping are ways forward,” he said.

“Providing parents and educators with advice about how to best respond to the child to strengthen pro-social behaviour and reduce noncompliant and aggressive behaviour will also help.”

Source: Australian National University

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