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Language difficulties and internalizing problems: Bidirectional associations from 18 months to 8 years among boys and girls

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2017

Siri Saugestad Helland*
Affiliation:
Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Espen Røysamb
Affiliation:
Norwegian Institute of Public Health University of Oslo
Mari Vaage Wang
Affiliation:
Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Kristin Gustavson
Affiliation:
Norwegian Institute of Public Health University of Oslo
*
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Siri Saugestad Helland, Department of Child Development, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, PO Box 4400 Nydalen, N-0403 Oslo, Norway; E-mail: sshe@fhi.no.

Abstract

Studies have shown that early language difficulties are associated with later internalizing problems. Less is known about the nature of the association: the bidirectional relationship over time, the role of different types of language difficulties, and gender differences. The present study examined bidirectional longitudinal associations between parent-rated language difficulties and internalizing problems in a four-wave cross-lagged model from 18 months to 8 years. Data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study were used (N = 114,000). Gender-specific dichotomized language variables were created, and associations were investigated uniquely for boys and girls. Logistic regression analyses showed that all cross-lagged associations from 18 months to 5 years were significant for girls (odds ratios [ORs] = 1.48–1.94). For boys, only internalizing problems at 3 years predicted change in language difficulties (OR = 2.33). From 5 to 8 years, the cross-lagged associations between semantic language difficulties and internalizing problems were significant and strong for girls (ORs = 1.92–2.97) and nonsignificant for boys. The results suggest that the associations between language difficulties and internalizing problems are bidirectional from an early age, and that girls are especially vulnerable for developing co-occurring language difficulties and internalizing problems during the years of transition to school.

Type
Regular Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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Footnotes

We thank Synnve Schjølberg and Kristian Tambs for valuable input to the study and for participating in the validation data collection. The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study is supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Research (NIH/NIEHS; Contract No. N01-ES-75558) and NIH/NINDS (Grants UO1 NS 047537-01 and UO1 NS 047537-06A1). The study is supported by EXTRA funds from the Norwegian Foundation for Health and Rehabilitation (2012/0006). We are grateful to all of the participating families in Norway who are taking part in this ongoing cohort study.

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