Late Talking Does Not Impact Later Behavioral Problems

Late talkers have poorer behavior at age 2, but problems do not persist later in childhood

TUESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Language delay is associated with behavioral problems at age 2, but this delay is not a risk factor for behavioral or emotional problems in later childhood and adolescence, according to a study published online July 4 in Pediatrics.

Andrew J.O. Whitehouse, Ph.D., from the University of Western Australia in Perth, and colleagues assessed whether toddlers with expressive vocabulary delay have an increased risk for behavioral and emotional problems during childhood and adolescence. Early expressive vocabulary was evaluated in 142 late talkers at age 2 years, who scored at or below the 15th percentile on the Language Development Survey, and from 1,245 control toddlers. Child Behavior Checklist scores were used to measure problem behavior with continuous z scores and clinical thresholds at ages 2, 5, 8, 10, 14, and 17 years. Results were adjusted for maternal and family sociodemographic characteristics and prenatal smoking and exposure to alcohol.

The researchers found that, at the age of 2 years, late talkers had higher Child Behavior Checklist scores, in total, internalizing, and externalizing scales compared to toddlers in the control group. Late talkers also had an elevated risk for clinically significant internalizing and externalizing problems. No association was seen between being a later-talker at age 2 years and behavioral and emotional problems at the 5-, 8-, 10-, 14- and 17- year follow-ups, after adjusting for confounding variables.

"Expressive vocabulary delay at the age of 2 years is not in itself a risk factor for later behavioral and emotional disturbances," the authors write.

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