The complex relation between executive functions and language in preschoolers with developmental language disorders

Andrea Marini, Barbara Piccolo, Livia Taverna, Moira Berginc, Martina Ozbič

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Backgrounds: The relationship between linguistic difficulties and cognitive impairments in children with developmental language disorders (DLDs) is receiving growing interest in international research. Executive functions (EF) appear to be weak in these children. The current investigation aims at exploring the relationship between difficulties in two components of EF (i.e., updating and inhibition) and the linguistic and narrative skills of 16 DLD preschoolers matched with 24 typically developing peers. Methods: Updating skills were tested by administering the forward and backward digit recall subtests of the Wechsler Scales, while children’s inhibition abilities were assessed by completion of Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment (NEPSY-II) inhibition tasks. Information on the linguistic skills of the participants was collected through a set of subtests included in the Batteria per la Valutazione del Linguaggio in bambini dai 4 ai 12 anni (Batteria per la Valutazione del Linguaggio; BVL_4-12), assessing articulatory and phonological discrimination skills, lexical production/comprehension, grammatical production/comprehension, and narrative production skills. Results: Findings revealed that DLD children performed significantly lower than their peers on both updating and inhibitory tasks. Linguistic difficulties were found in the DLD group on articulatory/phonological skills, grammatical production/comprehension, and lexical informativeness on narrative production. Measures of EF correlated with linguistic and narrative measures. Conclusion: The current study confirms a significant association between DLD’s performances on EF and displayed linguistic skills, suggesting the need to include the assessment of executive functions to target early intervention rehabilitation programs for children with DLDs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1772
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Developmental language disorders
  • Developmental neuropsychology
  • Executive functions
  • Neurolinguistics
  • Phonological working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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