Preschool developmental concerns and adjustment in the early school years: Evidence from a Scottish birth cohort

Fiona Sim (Corresponding Author), Lucy Thompson, Louise Marryat (Corresponding Author), James Law, Philip Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: Preschool language and behavioural difficulties impact on multiple domains of the child’s early life and can endure into adulthood, predicting poor educational, social and health outcomes. Highlighting risk factors associated with poor outcomes following language and behavioural difficulties raised in early childhood may facilitate early identification and intervention.METHODS: Data from the Growing Up in Scotland national birth cohort study were used. Language and behavioural difficulties were assessed at age four years using parent-reported language concerns and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Measures of adjustment were collated into four key outcome domains; attitude to school life, language & general development, behaviour and general health at age six years. Both univariate and multivariate logistic regression models were fitted in order to explore independent associations between language & behavioural difficulties at age four and adjustment to life circumstances at age six, whilst controlling for other risk factors.RESULTS: Language difficulties at age four increased the odds of the child experiencing difficulty with language and general development, poorer health outcomes and behavioural difficulties at age six. Behavioural difficulties alone at age four were associated with increased odds of the child experiencing all of the aforementioned outcomes as well as difficulties in early school life. Lone parent family, low income and male gender were identified as risk factors for poorer outcomes in the domains measured. At age four, there was no additive effect found with the presence of behaviour difficulties on the relationship between language difficulties and language and developmental outcomes at six years.CONCLUSIONS: This paper demonstrates language and behavioural difficulties are associated with poor social, educational, health and behavioural outcomes. Taking seriously parent-reported concerns and identifying risk factors could limit negative outcomes for the child, their family and society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-736
Number of pages18
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Issue number5
Early online date12 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information
Scottish Chief Scientist Office. Grant Number: MR/K023209/1
Medical Research Council. Grant Number: MR/K023209/1
Farr Institute at Scotland. Grant Number: MR/K007017/1


  • behaviour
  • child development
  • language delay


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