Do parent-reported early indicators predict later developmental language disorder? A Raine Study investigation

Samuel D. Calder, Mark Boyes, Christopher G. Brennan-Jones, Andrew J.O. Whitehouse, Monique Robinson, Elizabeth Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Developmental language disorder (DLD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental conditions. Due to variable rates of language growth in children under 5 years, the early identification of children with DLD is challenging. Early indicators are often outlined by speech pathology regulatory bodies and other developmental services as evidence to empower caregivers in the early identification of DLD. Aims: To test the predictive relationship between parent-reported early indicators and the likelihood of children meeting diagnostic criteria for DLD at 10 years of age as determined by standardized assessment measures in a population-based sample. Methods: Data were leveraged from the prospective Raine Study (n = 1626 second-generation children: n = 104 with DLD; n = 1522 without DLD). These data were transformed into 11 predictor variables that reflect well-established early indicators of DLD from birth to 3 years, including if the child does not smile or interact with others, does not babble, makes only a few sounds, does not understand what others say, says only a few words, says words that are not easily understood, and does not combine words or put words together to make sentences. Family history (mother and father) of speech and language difficulties were also included as variables. Regression analyses were planned to explore the predictive relationship between this set of early indicator variables and likelihood of meeting DLD diagnostic criteria at 10 years. Results: No single parent-reported indicator uniquely accounted for a significant proportion of children with DLD at 10 years of age. Further analyses, including bivariate analyses testing the predictive power of a cumulative risk index of combined predictors (odds ratio (OR) = 0.95, confidence interval (CI) = 0.85–1.09, p = 0.447) and the moderating effect of sex (OR = 0.89, CI = 0.59–1.32, p = 0.563) were also non-significant. Conclusions: Parent reports of early indicators of DLD are well-intentioned and widely used. However, data from the Raine Study cohort suggest potential retrospective reporting bias in previous studies. We note that missing data for some indicators may have influenced the results. Implications for the impact of using early indicators as evidence to inform early identification of DLD are discussed. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS: What is already known on the subject DLD is a relatively common childhood condition; however, children with DLD are under-identified and under-served. Individual variability in early childhood makes identification of children at risk of DLD challenging. A range of ‘red flags’ in communication development are promoted through speech pathology regulatory bodies and developmental services to assist parents to identify if their child should access services. What this paper adds to the existing knowledge No one parent-reported early indicator, family history or a cumulation of indicators predicted DLD at 10 years in the Raine study. Sex (specifically, being male) did not moderate an increased risk of DLD at 10 years in the Raine study. Previous studies reporting on clinical samples may be at risk of retrospective reporting bias. What are the potential or actual clinical implications of this work? The broad dissemination and use of ‘red flags’ is well-intentioned; however, demonstrating ‘red flags’ alone may not reliably identify those who are at later risk of DLD. Findings from the literature suggest that parent concern may be complemented with assessment of linguistic behaviours to increase the likelihood of identifying those who at risk of DLD. Approaches to identification and assessment should be considered alongside evaluation of functional impact to inform participation-based interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-412
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Issue number1
Early online date24 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


Dive into the research topics of 'Do parent-reported early indicators predict later developmental language disorder? A Raine Study investigation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this