Objective: Investigate longitudinally the course of development of preschool learning impaired (LI) children to better understand the interaction between neurodevelopmental delay, behavioral/emotional disorders, and language development and disorders.
Method: Relationships between developmental language disorders and emotional problems were investigated in 99 8-year-old specifically language impaired and control children originally assessed at age 4 years using the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist and the Conners' Parents Questionnaire.
Results: LI children received higher behavior problem scores and were more likely to score in the clinical range than were control children. Neither degree of early language impairment nor amount of language improvement predicted 8-year behavioral/emotional status. LI children with the largest drop in IQ between ages 4 and 8 received the highest behavior problem scores. No significant comorbid relationship was seen between LI and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Conclusions: The enhanced incidence of behavior problems reported heretofore may be related more to lower IQ than to linguistic deficit per se. Care must be taken to differentiate the symptoms of neurodevelopmental delay and emotional disturbance, however, preschool children with scores in the clinical range on such measures should be referred for additional evaluation.