The social dimension of language impairment

Evangelia Kyritsi (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece)
Spyridoula Varlokosta (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens)
Speaker: Evangelia Kyritsi
Topic: Social Psychology of Language
COMELA 2021 General Session


This study builds on ethnographic family interviews with seven Greek-speaking families living in Sweden. In this talk, we analyze how language ideologies intersect with the families’ migration trajectories, parents professional and educational background and whether the parents have had a bilingual and bicultural upbringing themselves.

This paper is a critical review of social factors implicated in language impairment. Most research on children with atypical language has focused on language difficulties per se, such as difficulties in syntax, vocabulary, speech production, or pragmatic competence. Whereas there is ample evidence that language difficulties lead to literacy difficulties (Stackhouse & Wells 1997), the social dimension of these difficulties often goes overlooked. However, in order to have a comprehensive view of language impairment, one also needs to take into consideration factors relating to the language-impaired person, their home environment, their educational experiences, and the overall social environment. For example, children with language impairment often experience behavioural and emotional difficulties, which may continue into adulthood and affect university life and academic achievements (Botting et al. 2016). These difficulties have an impact on the relationship between the language-impaired person, their fellow students and their teachers. Moreover, research has shown that parents’ education and socio-economic status, parental attitudes, parental involvement and responsiveness influence language development in non-typically developing children (Law et al. 2019). Language-impaired people may also experience difficulties in common everyday situations, such as in money transactions or when they need to fill in an official document (Gur et al. 2020, Winstanley et al. 2018). It is concluded that educators and policy makers need to take into consideration the aforementioned factors in order not only to support language in atypical development but also to ensure that language-impaired people have a good quality of life.

Botting, N., K. Durkin, U. Toseeb, A. Pickles & G. Conti-Ramsden. (2016). Emotional health, support, and self-efficacy in young adults with a history of language impairment. British Journal of Developmental Psychology 34: 538-554.
Gur, K., G. Dolaner & S. R. Turan. (2020). Health literacy of hearing-impaired adolescents, barriers and misunderstandings they encounter, and their expectations. Disability and Health Journal 13: 1-8.
Law, J., P. Levickis, I. R. Rodriguez-Ortiz, A. Matic, R. Lyons, C. Messarra, E. Kouba Hreich & M. Stankova. (2019). Working with parents and families of children with developmental language disorders: An international perspective. Journal of Communication Disorders 82.
Stackhouse, J. & B. Wells. (1997). Children’s Speech and Literacy Difficulties: A Psycholinguistic Framework. London: Whurr.
Winstanley, M., K. Durkin, R. T. Webb & G. Conti-Ramsden. (2018). Financial capability and functional financial literacy in young adults with developmental language disorder. Autism & Developmental Language Impairments 3: 1-11.

Keywords: language impairment, language and literacy difficulties, emotional difficulties, social factors