What is it about?
This study looked at the early-life factors that predict children’s reading and speech outcomes between the ages of 7 and 11. We used data from the National Child Development Study—a large study that’s been running in the UK since the 1950s. Previous work has shown that reading and speech difficulties can co-occur, so first we set off to assess how much overlap was in the dataset. Our analysis suggested little co-occurrence—the best model gave us 4 groups: children with average reading and speech, children with excellent reading, children who struggled with reading, and children who struggled with speech. We then modelled the probability of belonging to each of these groups, and found that boys and preterm-born children were at greater risk of reading and speech difficulties. Factors in the social environment—the mother’s education, the home reading environment, and the family’s socioeconomic status—were linked to better reading outcomes but were unrelated to speech.
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash
Why is it important?
The results showed a larger environmental component in children’s reading outcomes than their speech, suggesting that underprivileged children might benefit especially from interventions to help with reading development. Speech, on the other hand, seemed less malleable and these outcomes are likely shaped by biological pathways. As for the methodology, this study took a novel approach that allowed the characteristics of the sample to shine through and inform the models. We hope this might encourage researchers in the field to combine exploratory and confirmatory methods, in order to separate the effects on reading versus speech and interpret their results appropriately.
Read the Original
This page is a summary of: Bioenvironmental Predictors of Childhood Reading and Speech Difficulties, Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, May 2023, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), DOI: 10.1044/2023_jslhr-22-00476.
You can read the full text:
The following have contributed to this page