Does oral language underpin the development of later behavior problems? A longitudinal meta-analysis.

Objective: The purpose of this article is to estimate the overall weighted mean effect of the relation between early language skills and later behavior problems in school-aged children. Method: A systematic literature search yielded 19,790 unduplicated reports, and a structured search strategy and identification procedure yielded 25 unique data sets, with 114 effect sizes for analysis. Eligible reports were then coded, and effect sizes were extracted and synthesized via robust variance estimation and random-effects meta-analytic techniques. Results: The overall correlation between early language and later behavior problems was negative and small (r = −.14, 95% confidence interval [CI] [−.16, −.11]), and controlling for demographic variables did not reduce the magnitude of the inverse relationship between language skill and problem behavior (r = −.16). Moderator analyses identified receptive language, parent-reported behavior measures, gender, and age as significant predictors of the association between language and behavior. Conclusion: This article corroborates the consistent findings of previous meta-analytic and longitudinal studies and further identifies areas, particularly around measurement, for future research. Furthermore, prospective longitudinal evaluations of the relations between language deficits and behavior problems with different types of measures (teacher-/parent-report, direct assessment, classroom observation) is warranted. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)