OBJECTIVES: Little is known on the psychosocial adult outcomes of children's early language skills or intervening circumstances. The aim of this study was to assess the longitudinal trajectory linking childhood receptive language skills to psychosocial outcomes in later life. METHODS: The study comprised 6941 men and women who participated in a nationally representative Birth Cohort Study. Direct assessment of language skills were made at age 5. The sample was studied again at age 34 to assess psychosocial outcomes and levels of adult mental health. Characteristics of the family environment, individual adjustment, and social adaptation in the transition to adulthood were assessed as potential moderating factors linking early language skills to adult mental health. RESULTS: In early childhood, cohort members with poor receptive language experienced more disadvantaged socioeconomic circumstances than cohort members with normal language skills and showed more behavior and psychosocial adjustment problems in the transition to adulthood. At age 34, cohort members with poor early language skills reported lower levels of mental health than cohort members with normal language. After adjustment for family background and experiences of social adaptation, early language skills maintained a significant and independent impact in predicting adult mental health. CONCLUSIONS: Early receptive language skills are significantly associated with adult mental health as well as psychosocial adjustment during early childhood and in later life. The needs of children with language problems are complex and call for early and continuing provision of educational support and services
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