City Research Online

Language and Socioeconomic Disadvantage: From Research to Practice

Roy, P., Chiat, S. & Dodd, B. (2014). Language and Socioeconomic Disadvantage: From Research to Practice. London, UK: City University London.


Children from low socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds are at disproportionate risk of language delay. Previous research has suggested that basic language skills affected in language impairment may not be affected by SES. These skills may therefore help to distinguish children with language impairment from those with poor language due to limitations of their language environment. The distinction is important since children with language impairment require different types of intervention from disadvantaged children whose inherent capacity for language is intact. In this Briefing Paper, we report findings from our research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, which aimed to tease apart external and internal factors involved in language delay in socioeconomically disadvantaged preschoolers, using measures known to be more or less socially biased.

Our samples comprised 208 preschoolers from Low SES neighbourhoods and 168 from Mid-high SES neighbourhoods aged 3½-5 years, with English as their first language. The youngest age group (3½-4) were followed up 18 months later. An age-matched Clinic sample of 160 children acted as an additional comparison group for the Low SES sample. Our findings reveal the extent to which very basic, early developing language and speech skills may be affected in preschool children from socio-economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The outcomes of our study inform interventions and underscore the need for very early intervention prior to school entry. Furthermore, they highlight a need for continuing support throughout the school years if children are to access education effectively.

Publication Type: Report
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
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