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Developmental language delay and co-occurring problems



The purpose of this study is to investigate the co-occurring problems in children with delayed language development at 18 months, three and five years of age.

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The focus in this study will be on delayed language development and co-occurring difficulties such as:

  • Motor difficulties 
  • Externalising and internalising behaviour problems


Children with delayed language development often experience additional problems. Previous research into language delay and co-occurring problems has mainly focused on school-aged children and few have looked at child development through the pre-school years. It is important to investigate these difficulties during the period where both language and other skills are under development. By identifying early symptoms, difficulties can be discovered and treated at an earlier age. 

Even though children with delayed language development often show persistent difficulties, previous research has shown that many children also outgrow their difficulties. Others have a period without symptoms, and then develop difficulties of a similar nature at a later stage. Children with delayed language development thus seem to follow different developmental pathways. By studying co-occurring problems over time it is possible to discover whether the difficulties persist, disappear or if the symptoms change over time. 

This PhD-project used data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Study and was financed by the Norwegian Extra Foundation for Heath and Rehabilitation.


The project started in January 2010 and ended in December 2013.

The project was run by PhD student Mari Vaage Wang in collaboration with Leif Edvard Aarø (main supervisor, NIPH), Arne Holte (supervisor, University of Oslo), and the Language and Learning study-group at the NIPH.


Wang, Mari Vaage; Lekhal, Ratib; Aarø, Leif Edvard; Schjølberg, Synnve. Co-occurring development of early childhood communication and motor skills: results from a population-based longitudinal study. Child: Care, Health and Development, 2014 (NIPH)

Lekhal, Ratib, von Soest, Tilmann, Wang, Mari Vaage, Aukrust, Vibeke G., Schjølberg, Synnve Norway’s high-quality center care reduces late talking in high- and low-risk groups. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: September 2012 - Volum 33 (7) s. 562–569 (FHI UiO) 

Lekhal, Ratib; Zachrisson, Henrik Daae; Wang, Mari Vaage; Schjølberg, Synnve; Von Soest, Tilmann. Does universally accessible child care protect children from late talking? Results from a Norwegian population-based prospective study.Early Child Development and Care 2011 ;Volum 181.(8) s. 1007-1019, (FHI)

Schjølberg, Synnve; Lekhal, Ratib; Wang, Mari Vaage; Zambrana, Imac Maria; Mathiesen, Kristin S.; Magnus, Per; Roth, Christine. Report 2008:10. Delayed language development. A current overview based on data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. Folkehelseinstituttet (FHI)

Popular science

Vartun, M., Helland, S.S., Wang, M.V., Lekhal, R. og Schjølberg, S. (2012): En barnehage preget av kompetanse og trivsel (pdf). Første steg nr 3/ 2012, Utdanningsforbundet.