Knowledge and Resource Hub
19 March 2019

Vocabulary development and trajectories of inattention-hyperactivity and emotional symptoms via academic ability and peer problems

This longitudinal study investigated the relationship between the development of Australian children's vocabulary and later subsequent behavioural and emotional problems and the role of two potential mediating mechanisms; literacy and peer problems.  Lower growth in vocabulary ability was related to the later development of hyperactivity-inattention, conduct problems and emotional symptoms;  with literacy a key mediator of these associations. For example, children with lower growth in their vocabulary during primary school had higher rates of hyperactivity-inattention at 8-9 years as well as more rapid increases in hyperactivity-inattention in adolescence (14-15 years). The study's findings suggest that early literacy-based interventions may alleviate declining academic, emotional and behavioural functioning in adolescence so it is important to intervene with both children who enter school with low language skills and also those who drop behind other children over the first few years of primary school.