Associations among co-occurring medical conditions and cognition, language, and behavior in Down syndrome

Res Dev Disabil. 2022 Jul:126:104236. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2022.104236. Epub 2022 Apr 22.


Background: Specific medical conditions are more prevalent in Down syndrome (DS) compared to the general population. Medical heterogeneity has also been hypothesized to contribute to variability in outcomes in DS.

Aims: This project aimed to examine the association between medical conditions (i.e., gastrointestinal issues, hearing loss, vision problems, and congenital heart defects) and cognition, language, and behavior in children and adolescents with DS.

Methods and procedures: Participants were 73 children and adolescents with DS, ages 6-17 years (M = 12.67, SD = 3.16). Caregivers reported on participants' medical conditions, social behaviors, maladaptive behaviors, and executive function. Child cognitive abilities were also assessed.

Outcomes and results: Of the 73 participants, 34.2% had gastrointestinal issues, 12.3% had uncorrected hearing loss, 26.0% had uncorrected vision problems, and 31.5% had congenital heart defects. Participants with gastrointestinal issues had significantly more challenges with social behaviors, maladaptive behaviors, and executive function compared to those without gastrointestinal issues.

Conclusions and implications: The associations identified between gastrointestinal issues and caregiver-reported behavioral characteristics in youth with DS contributes to our understanding of the interrelation between co-occurring medical conditions and child outcomes and has implications for approaches to care for individuals with DS.

Keywords: Down syndrome; Executive function; Intellectual disability; Maladaptive behavior; Medical history; Social behavior; Trisomy 21.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cognition
  • Down Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Down Syndrome* / psychology
  • Executive Function
  • Heart Defects, Congenital* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Language