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Language and learning among eight-year-olds (Language-8)

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The purpose of this study is to learn more about children’s language development. Why is it that some children learn to talk easily while others struggle? We will examine environmental and heritable causes for language impairment in children.

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The purpose of this study is to learn more about children’s language development. Why is it that some children learn to talk easily while others struggle? We will examine environmental and heritable causes for language impairment in children.


Background

Specific Language Impairment (SLI) is one of the most common developmental impairment, and between 7 and 10% of all children between 6 and 10 years old have language difficulties as their primary problem. Some children have mild language impairments – dropping just a bit behind their same-age peers. Other children have language impairments that lead to more severe communication problems, both with peers as well as with adults. Language problems can lead to serious lifelong challenges, such as academic, social, and emotional problems. International studies show that language problems can be associated with joblessness, increased vulnerability for mental illnesses and social disparity.

SLI first becomes apparent when children have delays in beginning to speak, are slow to learn new words, and later show problems with grammar rules. Often, they also have difficulty reading and writing. Compared with their peers children with SLI do not have delays in non-language skills (e.g. the child might have an easier time understanding numbers than words).

Objectives

We know relatively little about the developmental course and causes of language problems. We need more knowledge to be able to help children with difficulties to learn to talk. The Language-8 Study has several goals:

  • We will describe cognitive and language abilities in Norwegian-speaking 8-year olds, both with and without language problems.
  • We will determine whether there are risk factors for developing language problems, and whether there exist any protective factors against development of language impairment.
  • We will compare a group of 8 year olds with language impairment with a group of 8 year olds without language impairment.
  • We will examine which aspects of language are different in children with language impairment versus those without.
  • We will investigate prevalence rates of language impairment and potential gender differences.
  • We will compare results of our clinical data with children’s later school results, with the help of the National exams given in the 4th and 5th grades.

The project will be ongoing from July 2013 until July 2017.

Researchers

The study is led by Kristian Tambs (PhD, philosophy), and clinical leader, Synnve Schjølberg (Cand.Psych.), together with international collaborators Mabel Rice (PhD, Professor, University of Kansas, USA), Patricia Eadie (PhD, Speech Language Pathologist, University of Melbourne, Australia) and Paula Fikkert (PhD, Linguistics, Radbound University, Nijmegen, Netherlands).

Other collaborators at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health are Professor Per Magnus, PhD, with the Division of Epidemiology, Heidi Aase, PhD, researcher and Director of the Department for Childhood, Development and Cultural Diversity; and Fufen Jin, PhD, linguistics researcher.

This project will add a Post Doc position during the summer of 2014.

Clinical Study Staff:
Stian Barbo Valand (MA, Speech Language Pathology), Project Coordinator
Ida Brenna Halvorsen (MA, psychology), Test Clinician
Silje Mosgren (MA, linguistics), Test Clinician

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