Background: This study aims to examine bidirectional relationships between children's language skills and Inattention/Hyperactivity (IH) symptoms during preschool.
Method: Children (N = 1459) from the EDEN mother-child cohort were assessed at ages 3 and 5.5 years. Language skills were evaluated using the WPPSI-III, NEPSY and ELOLA batteries. Children's behavior, including IH symptoms, was assessed using the parent-rated Strengths & Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Using a Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) approach, we examined the relationship between language skills and IH symptoms, as well as potential mediating processes.
Results: SEM analyses indicated a small negative effect of language skills at 3 years on ADHD symptoms at 5.5 years after adjusting for IH symptoms at 3 years (β =-0.12, SE = 0.04, p-value = 0.002). Interpersonal difficulties did not mediate the relationship between early language skills and later IH symptoms, nor was this association reduced after adjusting for a broad range of pre- and postnatal environmental factors and performance IQ. Among different language skills, receptive syntax at 3 years was most strongly related to IH symptoms at 5.5 years.
Conclusions: Poor language skills at age 3 may predict IH symptoms when a child enters primary school. Implications for the understanding and the prevention of the co-occurrence of language disorders and ADHD are discussed.
Keywords: ADHD; Language; Preschool; Structural equation modeling.