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Publication Detail
The role of language in mental health during the transition from primary to secondary education
  • Publication Type:
    Working discussion paper
  • Authors:
    Jelen MB, Griffiths SL, Lucas L, Saul J, Norbury C
  • Publication date:
  • Status:

We report a preregistered analysis testing whether children that meet diagnostic criteria for language disorder (LD) have higher self-reported and/or parent-reported mental health symptoms during the transition from primary to secondary education. Data are from a longitudinal cohort study that oversampled children at risk of LD at school entry. Language was measured using a battery of standardised assessments in Year 1 (age 5-6 years, n = 529) and mental health symptoms were measured using self and parent report measures in Year 6 (age 10-11 years, n = 384) and Year 8 (age 12-13 years, n = 246). Social experiences were also measured using self-report measures in Year 6. Mental health symptoms were stable during the transition from primary to secondary school. Symptom rates did not differ between children with and without LD based on self-report, but children with language disorder did have higher parent-reported mental health symptoms than their peers with typical language. Similarly, early language was negatively associated with parent-reported but not self-reported mental health symptoms. Early language was also associated with fewer child-reported positive social experiences in Year 6, but social experiences did not mediate the association between language and mental health. We found poor agreement between parent and self-reported child mental health symptoms across language groups. Future studies should aim to determine sources of disagreement between parent and child report, particularly for children with communication difficulties who may struggle to accurately self-report mental health symptoms.

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