• Adolescents;
  • childhood physical abuse;
  • language expression;
  • language comprehension

The present study compared the expressive and receptive language abilities of adolescents who had experienced physical abuse as children with the abilities of a closely matched control group who had not experienced maltreatment. Comprehension abilities of the two groups (as measured on a standard test) did not differ significantly. There were also no significant differences in expressive vocabulary. The syntactic expression of the abused group was significantly more impaired than that of the non-abused group. In addition, two aspects of functional communication were impaired significantly. The abused used significantly less self-related language and also had a significantly greater tendency to engage in self-repetition. The two groups did not differ significantly, however, on several other aspects of functional communication. Explanations of the results are offered. It is also suggested that there are individual differences in the types of problem experienced by the physically abused group.