Vulnerable background children likely to have language struggles
The Sector > Research > Understanding Children > Vulnerable background children likely to have language struggles

Vulnerable background children likely to have language struggles

by Freya Lucas

October 09, 2019

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are three times more likely to develop difficulties with language than those from more affluent areas, research from the University of Edinburgh (UoE) suggests.


The findings will be of interest to those in the Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector when viewed in conjunction with the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data relevant to their community. 


UoE researchers said the findings highlight the need for policies to address the social factors that can hamper speech, language and communication (SLC) development. By failing to do so, they noted, children may not fully develop the language skills that are critical for emotional development, wellbeing and educational and employment opportunities.


To arrive at their findings, the research term from both UoE and NHS Lothian looked at more than 26,000 records of children who had a routine health review between 27 and 30 months between April 2013 and April 2016.


The records showed that preschool children living in the most economically deprived neighbourhoods of Scotland were three times more likely to have SLC concern than those brought up in more affluent areas.


Children’s developmental vulnerabilities can be impacted by growing up in neighbourhoods with low income and unemployment, with children going on to experience problems with education, health, access to services, crime and housing, increasing the risk of poor outcomes later in life. 


Researchers also discovered that each week a child spent in the womb from 23 to 36 weeks was associated with an 8.8 per cent decrease in the likelihood of them having an SLC concern reported at 27 months.


The study used birth data from children born in the Lothians but experts say similar results might be expected across the UK.


Professor of Neonatal Medicine at UoE’s MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, James Boardman, said “Growing up in a disadvantaged neighbourhood where there is poverty and reduced access to services is closely associated with problems with preschool language development. These results suggest that policies designed to lessen deprivation could reduce language and communication difficulties among pre-school children.”


To review the research in full, please see here. To learn more about the AEDC data, and how it may be used in ECEC contexts, please see here

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