Relationship between early language skills and the development of inattention/hyperactivity symptoms during the preschool period: Results of the EDEN mother-child cohort

BMC Psychiatry. 2016 Nov 8;16(1):380. doi: 10.1186/s12888-016-1091-3.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperkinesis
  • Language
  • Language Development*
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Schools