Metapragmatic Explicitation and Social Attribution in Social Communication Disorder and Developmental Language Disorder: A Comparative Study

J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2018 Mar 15;61(3):604-618. doi: 10.1044/2017_JSLHR-L-17-0026.


Purpose: The purposes of this study are to investigate metapragmatic (MP) ability in 6-11-year-old children with social communication disorder (SCD), developmental language disorder (DLD), and typical language development and to explore factors associated with MP explicitation and social understanding (SU).

Method: In this cross-sectional study, all participants (N = 82) completed an experimental task, the Assessment of Metapragmatics (Collins et al., 2014), in which pragmatic errors are identified in filmed interactions. Responses were scored for complexity/type of explicitation (MP score) and attribution of social characteristics to the films' characters (SU score).

Results: Groups with SCD and DLD had significantly lower MP scores and less sophisticated explicitation than the group with typical language development. After controlling for language and age, the group with SCD had significantly lower SU scores than the group with DLD. Significant correlations were found between MP scores and age/language ability but not with pragmatic impairment.

Conclusions: Children with SCD or DLD performed poorly on an MP task compared with children who are typically developing but do not differ from each other in ability to reflect verbally on pragmatic features in interactions. MP ability appears to be closely related to structural language ability. The limited ability of children with SCD to attribute social/psychological states to interlocutors may indicate additional social attribution limitations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Language Development Disorders / psychology*
  • Male
  • Metacognition*
  • Social Communication Disorder / psychology*
  • Social Perception*
  • Speech*