Narrative competencies, verbal memory and drug addiction: A study on young children of drug abusers

M. C. Musetti, L. Musetti, S. Corbella, S. Di Grazia, N. Principi, A. Guareschi Cazzullo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective. The paper discusses the relation in children of drug abusers between parental drug addiction, social deprivation and language disorder, with the aim of determining the level of verbal functioning through further exploration of children's narrative competencies. Methodology. Case-control study. Site. The Institute of Neurological and Psychiatric Science of Childhood and Adolescence, University of Milan. Participants. 30 children of pre-school age: 10 whose parents are HIV negative drug abusers (subjects) and 20 whose parents have no history of drug addiction (controls). Tasks. A symbolic story, scripts, task on false belief, questions on positive, neutral and negative emotional states of mind were administered to all the children. Measurements/main results. The two groups obtained the same scores on the Theory of Mind test. The most severe cognitive deficits were encountered on the narrative task, during which it was observed that subjects showed inferior free verbal recall and requested prompting more frequently. After facilitation, unrecalled episodes were significantly greater in number among the subjects. Length of expression was limited and syntactic ability was inadequate. In addition, the subjects did not recall positive autobiographic episodes. Recall was the same for neutral and negative personal narratives and scripts. Conclusions. The results would appear to justify a diagnosis of expressive language disorder. In this sample, children of drug abusers show a deficit in verbal memory and narrative competencies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-49
Number of pages6
JournalItalian Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2000


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this

Musetti, M. C., Musetti, L., Corbella, S., Di Grazia, S., Principi, N., & Guareschi Cazzullo, A. (2000). Narrative competencies, verbal memory and drug addiction: A study on young children of drug abusers. Italian Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, 10(2), 44-49.