Preliminary results from the Language and Learning Study
In 2008, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health presented the first results of children's language development in the report "Forsinket språkutvikling, en foreløpig oversikt basert på data fra MoBa” (Delayed language development, a preliminary overview based on data from MoBa). The report is only available in Norwegian but here is a summary of the main findings.
The report is based on MoBa data of children at 18 months (approx. 35,000 children) and three years (approx. 15,000 children), and results show that:
- Ten per cent of children show signs of late language development at 18 months of age
At eight months about ten per cent of children are at a level that is indicative of late language and communication development. Nevertheless, only one per cent of mothers consider that their child has a language / communication difficulty. At this age only a third of these children have been to a specialist for a development assessment.
- Five per cent of children are not yet talking in full sentences at three years of age
However, only three per cent of the mothers report that their children have language / communication difficulties at 36 months old. Only half of these children have been to a specialist. A large proportion of those who showed a delay in sentence use at 36 months also had poor communication skills when they were 18 months old. Approximately twice as many boys as girls have language / communication difficulties.
- Co-occurring problems in children with language difficulties
Some children with language delay also have other problems. The most frequently reported problems are motor and social problems but also overactivity and aggression. A larger proportion of the children with language difficulties are also inattentive or anxious compared to children without language difficulties. The results indicate that a somewhat larger proportion of the children with motor difficulties and aggression problems are boys while a somewhat larger proportion of the overactive, inattentive or anxious children are girls. We find no gender differences in the group with social difficulties.
- Centre-based childcare has an impact on children's language development
The tendency in the first analyses suggests that centre-based childcare can contribute to improve the language of different groups of children. In particular, children of parents with low education, a mother tongue other than Norwegian, and low income have better language skills when they attend centre-based childcare than those who are looked after at home. However, the differences in language skills are not large. Before one can be sure of the causal relationship it is important that these relationships are further investigated over time, in studies where centre-based childcare coverage has been taken into account. The proportion of parents who have children in centre-based childcare has changed dramatically during the years of the MoBa data collection.