Language, Social Cognitive Processing, and Behavioral Characteristics of Psychiatrically Disturbed Children with Previously Identified and Unsuspected Language Impairments

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Abstract

This study examined characteristics of social cognitive processing, psychiatric disorder, and behavioral ratings of 380 children aged 7 to 14 years who had been referred consecutively for child psychiatric services with identified and unsuspected language impairments and with normally developing language. The results indicated that children with language impairments generally exhibited greater deficits in social cognitive processing, and particularly emotion decoding and social problem solving, than children who have language that is developing normally. Differences in psychiatric diagnosis and behavior problems were observed only between children with previously identified language impairments and children with normally developing language; children with previously identified language impairments were more likely to be diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and to be rated by both parents and teachers as having more severe attentional problems. In addition, teachers rated them as more socially withdrawn. The results suggest that it is important to incorporate measures of both social cognition and language functioning routinely into clinical assessment, something that currently is rarely done.

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