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Child and environmental risk factors predicting readiness for learning in children at high risk of dyslexia

  • Julia Dilnot (a1) (a2), Lorna Hamilton (a3), Barbara Maughan (a4) and Margaret J. Snowling (a1) (a2)


We investigate the role of distal, proximal, and child risk factors as predictors of reading readiness and attention and behavior in children at risk of dyslexia. The parents of a longitudinal sample of 251 preschool children, including children at family risk of dyslexia and children with preschool language difficulties, provided measures of socioeconomic status, home literacy environment, family stresses, and child health via interviews and questionnaires. Assessments of children's reading-related skills, behavior, and attention were used to define their readiness for learning at school entry. Children at family risk of dyslexia and children with preschool language difficulties experienced more environmental adversities and health risks than controls. The risks associated with family risk of dyslexia and with language status were additive. Both home literacy environment and child health predicted reading readiness while home literacy environment and family stresses predicted attention and behavior. Family risk of dyslexia did not predict readiness to learn once other risks were controlled and so seems likely to be best conceptualized as representing gene–environment correlations. Pooling across risks defined a cumulative risk index, which was a significant predictor of reading readiness and, together with nonverbal ability, accounted for 31% of the variance between children.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Margaret Snowling, Department of Experimental Psychology, St. John's College, Oxford OX1 3JP, UK; E-mail:


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Development and Psychopathology
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