The oral and written narrative language skills of adolescent students in youth detention and the impact of language disorder

Natalie R. Kippin, Suze Leitao, Amy Finlay-Jones, Jennifer Baker, Rochelle Watkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Unmet language and literacy needs are common among young people who are involved with youth justice systems. However, there is limited research regarding the functional text-level language skills of this population with regard to narrative macrostructure (story grammar) and microstructure (semantics and syntax) elements. Methods: In this study, we examined macrostructure and microstructure elements in the oral and written narrative texts of 24 adolescent students of a youth detention centre. The students, who were aged 14- to 17- years, were all speakers of Standard Australian English, and 11 (46%) students met criteria for language disorder (LD). Findings: When we compared the narratives according to modality of language, the students demonstrated stronger narrative language skills in the written modality compared to the oral. However, when we compared the narratives according to language ability, we found that the impact of LD on inclusion of macrostructure elements was greater in the oral modality, and for microstructure elements, was greater in the written modality. Errors in written conventions were common among both students with and without LD. Conclusions: Our results indicate that both the modality of language as well as the presence of LD should be considered when young people are required to participate in forensic contexts including programs that address educational and rehabilitation needs. Our results indicate a need for consistent text-level language assessment to better identify and respond to functional difficulties within language and literacy. There is potential for speech-language pathology services to enhance comprehensive assessment as well as inform educational and rehabilitation programs for young people who are involved with youth justice systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106088
JournalJournal of Communication Disorders
Volume90
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021

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