Language disorders are associated with emotional and behavioral problems in childhood and adolescence. Although clinical studies with small samples suggest that psychosocial difficulties continue into adulthood, adult mental health outcomes of childhood language disorders are not well known. The objective of this prospective longitudinal study is to determine whether the age 31 mental health outcomes of individuals who had childhood language disorders differ from the outcomes of typically developing controls.
A 26-year cohort study followed up children with language or speech disorders from age 5 to age 31. The children were selected from a 1-in-3 random sample of 5-year-olds using a 3-stage screening and assessment process. A control group matched by sex, age, and classroom or school was also selected. Diagnoses were assigned with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview with the additional criterion that Global Assessment of Functioning scores indicated at least mild impairment. Dimensional psychosocial self-report measures were also administered.
Rates of diagnosis at age 31 years were equivalent between participants who had childhood language disorders and controls, with and without multiple imputation to estimate missing outcomes. Differences in rates of affective and substance use disorders could not be ruled out because of attrition in the cohort with language disorders, who were less likely to participate at age 31. Psychosocial scores for both cohorts were in the normal range. The cohort with language disorders had poorer self-rated physical health than controls.
Mild/moderate language disorders may not have significant long-term mental health consequences in early adulthood.
Key Words : language disorder, longitudinal, adult outcomes, speech disorders, physical health
| This article is discussed in an editorial by Dr. Claudio Toppelberg on page xxx.
| Clinical guidance is available at the end of this article.
| Supplemental material cited in this article is available online.
| This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (MOP 84421).
| Portions of this paper were presented at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 60th Annual Meeting, October 22nd-27th 2014, Orlando, FL.
| Dr. Brownlie served as the statistical expert for this research.
| The authors thank Brenda Cavanagh, BA, of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, for additional support in data collection and interviewing. The authors also thank the study participants and families for making this research possible.
| Disclosures: Dr. Beitchman has received research grant funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and the Howitt/Dunbar Foundation. Dr. Brownlie has received research grant funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. Ms. Bao reports no biomedical financial interests or potential conflicts of interest.