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Verbal and nonverbal predictors of early language problems: an analysis of twins in early childhood back to infancy


We investigated infant precursors of low language scores in early childhood. The sample included 373 probands in 130 monozygotic (MZ) and 109 same-sex dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs in which at least one member of the pair scored in the lowest 15th percentile of a control sample on a general language factor derived from tester-administered tests at 4;6. From data at 2;0, 3;0 and 4;0 the antecedents of poor language performance at 4;6 for these probands were compared to 290 control children. As early as 2;0, language measures substantially predicted low-language status at 4;6, with predictions increasing at 3;0 and 4;0. Nonverbal cognitive development at 3;0 and 4;0 was nearly as predictive of low language at 4;6 as were the language measures. Behaviour problems were also significant predictors of low language status although the associations were only about half as strong. Bivariate genetic analyses indicated that these predictions are mediated by both genetic and shared environmental links.

Corresponding author
Bonamy Oliver, Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Box PO83, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK. tel: +44 (0) 20 7848 5403; fax: +44 (0) 20 7848 0092; e-mail:
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The authors would like to thank the families in the Twins' Early Development Study (TEDS) for making the study possible. TEDS is supported by a programme grant from the UK Medical Research Council. The authors would also like to thank Dorothy Bishop and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.
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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
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