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PhD defence

Emotions and Psychosocial development of Children with and without Developmental Language Disorder

Wednesday 4 March 2020
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden

Children and adolescents with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) are at increased risk for the development of psychosocial problems compared to their peers without DLD. There is much individual variation within the group of children with DLD regarding their level and development of psychosocial problems. However, there is no systematic relationship between the severity of children’s communication problems and their psychosocial problems.

We aimed to gain better understanding of risk and protective factors for the development of psychosocial problems of children with DLD. We examined emotional competence, which refers to the ability to recognise, understand, regulate, and express emotions adaptively in social interactions. Emotional competence is gained through social interactions, in which language plays an important role. In children without DLD, problems in emotional competence are important risk factors for the development of different psychosocial problems, which may also be the case in children with DLD. Therefore, it this research project we examined whether problems in emotional competence could explain the level and development of children with and without DLD between 9 and 16 years old.

We found that problems in emotional competence indeed explained higher levels of psychosocial problems in children with and without DLD and that increasing levels of emotional competence were related to lower levels of psychosocial problems across time. Emotional competence was important both for children with and without DLD, but showed stronger relations in children with DLD. Moreover, emotional competence mediated the relation between the severity of communication problems and the level of internalizing and externalizing problems. These outcomes indicate that difficulties in emotional competence make children with DLD vulnerable to psychosocial problems and requires specific support and interventions, in addition to language interventions.


  • Prof. C. Rieffe
  • Prof. J. Dockrell (University College London)


  • P. van Alphen (Koninklijke Kentalis) PhD


PhD defences are free; you do not have to register.

PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

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Maarten Muns, Scientific Communications Adviser, Leiden University
+31 71 527 3282

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