Changes in emotional health symptoms in adolescents with specific language impairment

Ruth Wadman, Nicola Botting, Kevin Durkin, Gina Conti-Ramsden

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    Background: Adolescents and young adults with specific language impairment (SLI) are at risk of experiencing emotional health symptoms, in particular depression and anxiety disorder. However, there is a dearth of research examining issues of stability versus change in symptomatology across time. Aims: To examine depressive and anxiety symptoms reported by adolescents with and without a history of SLI at 16 years, and a year later. Methods & Procedures: Depressive and anxiety symptoms were examined in 90 adolescents with SLI and in 91 adolescents with typical development (TD) initially at 16 years and again at 17 years. Outcomes & Results: Participants with SLI experienced significantly more depressive and anxiety symptoms than participants with TD at 16 years, and continued to experience significantly more anxiety symptoms at 17 years. Females, regardless of language status (SLI versus TD), were more vulnerable than males. The group with SLI evidenced a significant drop in depressive symptoms over the year. A similar change in anxiety symptoms was not apparent. Regression analyses revealed that for individuals with SLI peer problems at 16 years predicted concurrent depressive symptoms, but behavioural factors did not contribute significantly to depressive symptoms at 17 years. For individuals with typical development, hyperactivity at 16 years predicted depressive symptoms at both 16 and 17 years. Language ability and non-verbal IQ did not predict depressive symptoms. Adolescents who experienced more bullying at 16 years were more likely to become, or remain, at risk for depression at 17 years. Conclusions & Implications: Anxiety symptoms appear to be a consistent feature of some individuals with SLI in young adulthood whilst depressive symptoms can diminish. © 2011 Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)641-656
    Number of pages15
    JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


    • Adolescence
    • Emotional health
    • Specific language impairment (SLI)


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