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Keywords:

  • Emotional health;
  • adolescents;
  • specific language impairment (SLI);
  • anxiety;
  • depression

Objective:  This study examined the emotional health of adolescents with and without specific language impairment (SLI).

Method:  One hundred and thirty-nine adolescents with a history of SLI (15;10 years) and a peer group of 124 adolescents with normal language development (NLD) (15;11 years) participated, who were in their final year of compulsory schooling. The risk of emotional difficulties was assessed using the Moods and Feelings Questionnaire (MFQ) and the Child Manifest Anxiety Scale-R (CMAS-R). Comprehensive language and cognition data were available for all participants (NLD and SLI) concurrently and also longitudinally for those with SLI.

Results:  A clear increased risk of emotional health symptoms was found for the SLI group on both self- and parental-report. Girls scored less favourably than boys when groups were combined, but these were due to the effect of the NLD group, with no gender differences found in the SLI group. Direct links with language and cognition were not obvious. Instead, more diffuse factors such as family history of emotional health difficulties may warrant further investigation.

Conclusion:  There is a marked higher rate of anxiety and depression symptoms in adolescents with SLI. However, these do not appear to be a direct result of impoverished communicative experiences.