The social-emotional development of "late-talking" toddlers

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2002 Nov;41(11):1324-32. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200211000-00014.


Objective: To examine the social-emotional problems and competencies of toddlers who evidenced lags in expressive language without concomitant receptive language delays.

Method: Maternal report and observation of 14 "late-talking" toddlers was compared with that of 14 control toddlers. Participants were selected on the basis of maternal report of vocabulary production with the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory Short Forms and by direct assessment with the Mullen Scales of Early Learning. Social-emotional functioning was assessed with the Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment, the Child Behavior Checklist 1.5-5, and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales-Expanded Form. Toddler affect was observed using the Parent-Child Early Relational Assessment. The Parenting Stress Index Short Form was used to assess maternal stress.

Results: Late talkers were rated higher in depression/withdrawal and lower in social relatedness, pretend play/imitation, and compliance on the Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment and more withdrawn on the Child Behavior Checklist than controls. Observation indicated late talkers were more serious, more depressed/withdrawn, and less interested in play. Late talkers were reported to be lower in socialization on the Vineland. Mothers of late talkers endorsed higher parent-child dysfunction on the Parenting Stress Index. No differences were found for externalizing behaviors or peer relationships.

Conclusions: Early lags in expressive language are associated with poor social-emotional adjustment. Intervention may ameliorate difficulty in linguistic and social-emotional functioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language Development Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Behavior*
  • Speech Production Measurement
  • Vocabulary