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Language is an important part of the social life of human beings, and it acts as a source of integration and order. Hoodin (2011) defines language disorders or language impairments as conditions that prevent the dispensation of linguistic information. Language impairments affect grammar abilities among children. In addition, Benner (2005) acknowledges a positive correlation between language disorders and poor academic performance. Language disorders are also associated with psychiatric issues and learning disabilities. In reference to Petersen et al. (2013), children with language disorders lack the ability to regulate their level of attention to various issues. This could explain why language disorders occur in many children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD). Language disorders can either be pragmatic or specific (Hoodin, 2011).
Pragmatic language impairment (PLI) refers to difficulties experienced in comprehending the practical aspects of language. Additionally, specific language impairment (SLI) results in delays in mastering linguistic skills. While PLI is associated with autism, Asperger syndrome, and ADHD, SLI is developmental (Hoodin, 2011).
There are reports in previous research studies concerning gender variations in the incidences of language disorders. According to Petersen et al. (2013), the impacts of language disorders appear to be stronger in males than females. Moreover, boys have a higher risk of developing attention and behavioral problems associated with language impairment. Research undertaken by Benner (2005) revealed that SLI occurred more in boys than girls. In reference to the authors, the correlates of SLI tend to focus on the history of language impairment in the family. Genetic factors have a role to play in revealing gender disparities reported in language impairment.
Contrary to this perspective, Hoodin (2011) reports the absence of gender variations in language disorders. The author explains that both genders have equal chances of being predisposed to familial risk factors that cause language impairment. The aim of the current research is to determine whether there are gender variations in language impairment among children and young adults. Understanding such variations would clear the discrepancies that exist in literature and prevent the misdiagnosis of language disorders among females.
Language disorders vary across gender
Past research studies have revealed that language impairments affect the ability of children to comprehend and comply with instructions (Hoodin, 2011). As a result, these children tend to misinterpret linguistic information and develop antisocial behaviors. This is an indication that language impairment affects the social lives of children. Hence, any gender disparities reported in research studies require clarification to provide solid evidence on their role in language impairment. Conti-Ramsden, Mok, Pickles, and Durkin (2013) undertook a research study on the occurrence of language impairment in young adults.
Based on the findings, the authors note that females are more likely to develop SLI because they experience emotional difficulties more than their male counterparts. On the contrary, past research findings have concluded that boys have a higher likelihood of developing language impairment than girls. However, the authors do not explain the basis for the emotional difficulties in females. They also acknowledge the dearth of evidence in other studies in explaining such findings (Conti-Ramsden, Mok, Pickles, & Durkin, 2013).
In a different research, Krizman, Skoe, and Kraus (2012) report gender variations in language disorders. They explain that genetic factors cause such variations, as male children have slower responses to speech compared to females. Moreover, male children tend to exhibit more neural deficits that relate to language impairment. The research also demonstrated that females had faster peaks with respect to language recognition and comprehension. Krizman, Skoe, and Kraus (2012) also acknowledge the gender differences in encoding speech syllables, which could explain variations in language disorders.
Benner (2005) indicates that SLI occurs more in males than females. The author explains that sex chromosomes play a critical role in such findings. However, there is a lack of a clear linkage between genetics and gender variations in language impairment. In an attempt to explain gender disparities in language impairment, Krizman, Skoe, Kraus (2012) argue that the acquisition of words is slower in boys than girls. Therefore, male children are more likely to have language disorders than females. These authors also note the findings in previous longitudinal research studies that girls perform better than boys in various language measures. Lastly, studies have shown that girls tend to perform better in understanding vocabularies while boys perform better in arithmetic (Benner, 2005). Since vocabulary comprehension is an important risk factor in learning abilities, such findings could explain why boys are reported to have higher incidences of language impairment.
Misconceptions regarding language variations across gender
According to Hoodin (2011), past research studies are inconsistent in reporting gender variations in language impairment. While some studies report that boys are more likely to have language disorders, others report the absence of gender variations. This is an indication that more comprehensive studies are required to confirm whether the reported gender disparities are actually true. The research by Conti-Ramsden, Mok, Pickles, and Durkin (2013) provides contrary evidence as it states that adolescent girls are more likely to have language impairment compared to boys. Moreover, the researchers admit that their findings could have been due to chance as the sample size was small.
Hoodin (2011) acknowledges that proband models show no gender variations among children whose relatives have language impairment. Causal inferences can only be true when epidemiological studies prove without a doubt that an exposure (gender) causes an outcome (language impairment). In this view, there are no studies that have consistently reported gender differences in language disorders. Perhaps this is an indication that the association is just a fallacy.
Viding et al. (2004) state that studies on twins tends to dispute the role of genetics in language impairment. These longitudinal studies have focused on the heritability of language disorders on fraternal and identical twins. Although their longitudinal research study reported gender variation in language disorders, further analysis of sex pairs did not find any association between language impairment and genetic or environmental factors (Viding et al., 2004).
Furthermore, Hoodin (2011) indicates that twin studies have reported varying results. While some have reported a positive association between gender and language impairment among young adults below 18 years, others have noted that genetic factors have played a major role in language impairment. Viding et al. (2004) argue that genetic explanations for gender variations in language disorders are a misconception due to the absence of clinically randomized trials to determine the kind of genes involved. Additionally, Benner (2005) indicates that the gender variations in these studies could be due to referral bias that occurs in the data collection phases of research. There could also be methodological variations that lead to discrepancies in the results reported in past research.
Hoodin (2011) also notes that some authors have attributed the gender discrepancies to environmental factors, which is a flawed conclusion. Viding et al. (2004) recommend more complex epidemiological studies on gender variations. The fact that the prevalence of impairment is higher in one gender should not necessarily mean that there are actual sex differences. The authors note that gender is majorly a confounding factor in most of the epidemiological research studies. Therefore, researchers should control for gender during data collection and analysis (Viding et al., 2004). Some of the twin research studies have also concluded that there are gender differences in language impairment, even when the levels of heritability appear to be the same across gender. In conclusion, all the research studies that report the presence of sex variation also recommend future research on the issue.
Language is an integral part of human life, as it enhances communication and integration. Language disorders inhibit the dispensation of linguistic abilities (Hoodin, 2011). Such impairments affect academic performance and learning abilities. Some previous studies have reported gender variations in language disorders. While some of these studies do not explain the findings, others state that genes play a major role in gender discrepancies. On the contrary, most twin studies report no gender disparities in language disorders and recommend further comprehensive research. Such variations are likely to result in misdiagnosis of language disorders among girls. As a result, this is likely to affect the treatment of such disorders among the female gender. In this regard, the research concludes that gender variations in language impairment are just a misconception, and further research is required to provide more solid scientific evidence.
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Conti-Ramsden, G., Mok, P. L., Pickles, A., & Durkin, K. (2013). Adolescents with a history of specific language impairment (SLI): Strengths and difficulties in social, emotional and behavioral functioning. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34(11), 4161–4169. Web.
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