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About the Language and Learning Study (SOL)

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Illustrasjonsfoto: Colourbox.com
Illustrasjonsfoto: Colourbox.com

The aim of the SOL study is to provide the best possible knowledge base for the understanding of causes and developmental trajectories of language difficulties, to enable early preventative measures.


Language and learning – language difficulties and learning outcomes (SOL) is a collaboration between the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Ministry of Education. The study is a sub-study in the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort study (MoBa), with data collection at 5 and 8 years. 

Language difficulties affect between 7-10 per cent of all 6 year old children in Norway and are considered the most common neurological developmental difficulties in children. The SOL study will increase our knowledge about factors contributing to good language development, detecting early signs of language difficulties, reasons why some children develop language difficulties and additional difficulties. We are especially interested in finding out how children who struggle with learning language develop through the preschool years and into school age.

SOL – platform for multiple language projects

In SOL we study children’s language and learning conditions from an interdisciplinary and longitudinal research perspective. The launch of the SOL study gave us the opportunity to obtain detailed information about children’s language and learning at 5 years of age as well as at 8 years of age, when they have started school. This information is linked to information about the children’s development at 6, 18 and 36 months in MoBa.

Our aim is to answer why late or deviant language development is often followed by other developmental difficulties. We study how social skills, motor skills and attention are related to language development from as early as 18 months. Furthermore we investigate which factors contribute to stability and change in children’s language skills during preschool years, including participation in different day care solutions like centre-based childcare or informal non-maternal childcare.

Eventually, a particular focus of the project will be to study the developmental pathways of language skills at 18 months of age to delayed language development at 5 years, and the stability and change in language difficulties and co-occurring problems from when children are 18 months old until they are well into school age (8 years).

The data collection in SOL creates a platform for new applications for research funding for projects that will study other aspects of language and learning. Research questions we wish to answer include: What cognitive and linguistic profiles for language difficulties can we identify at 5 years? What early markers can predict later language difficulties? What measuring instruments can best capture these difficulties? Further, we wish to investigate: How do different qualities in the kindergarten affect children’s language and learning? In what way is a child's language and learning affected by the school’s adaptation to meet the child’s needs?

The SOL-study will eventually provide unique knowledge about how the organisation of the learning activities in the centre-based childcare affects children's academic and social development through the school years. Knowledge from studies of children with different developmental pathways can eventually be used to target treatment initiatives for children with language difficulties and to prevent co-occurring difficulties.

New centre-based childcare study

In 2010, the Language and Learning Study (SOL) was extended to also include a separate data collection from centre-based childcare. The new expansion was given the sub-title: “Language development and learning outcomes from 6 months to 8 years - the influence of home, childcare and school”.
The percentage of children who attend childcare has increased steadily over the past 10 years. It is estimated that full centre-based childcare coverage is available for all the parents who require it. We still know few details about how various factors in centre-based childcare affect children's well-being, development and learning. The data collection will make us better able to identify which quality indicators in centre-based childcare are important for positive development in most children and for children with special language and learning needs. Likewise, it is important to identify factors that appear related to the development of behaviour problems and stress-related symptoms.

Participants from the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa)

The various SOL projects use information provided by parents and children in MoBa.

In MoBa the first data was collected through questionnaires completed by the mother and father during pregnancy. The mother continues to provide information when the child is 6 and 18 months, and 3, 5, 7 and 8 years old respectively. The questionnaires contain questions about the child's physical and mental health, language and social development, and about developmental disorders such as ADHD and autism.

Participants in MoBa have given consent for the information they provide to be used anonymously in different studies that contribute to knowledge about development of good health and developmental difficulties. MoBa and projects associated with the study are approved by the MoBa Executive Team and the Regional Ethical Committees for medicine and health (REK).

Involved researchers

The study is run by project manager Synnve Schjølberg (Cand. Psychol. Specialist in clinical psychology) and Department Head Kristin S Mathiesen (PhD, Specialist in clinical psychology), in collaboration with Senior Researcher Patricia Eadie (PhD, Speech Therapist) and Paula Fikkert (Professor, linguistics).

In addition the following colleagues are working in the study: Researchers Mari V. Wang (PhD submitted) and Fufen Jin (PhD linguistics), PhD student Siri S. Helland (Cand.Psyhol.) and coordinator Laura Aniko Evensen (MPH, community health).

Collaborators at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health are Per Magnus (Professor, Leader of the MoBa study, Department Head Division of Epidemiology) and Heidi Aase (PhD, Psychologist, Leader of the ADHD study).
National collaborators are Bente Hagtvet (Professor, Institute of Special Education, University of Oslo), Hanne Gram Simonsen (Professor, Institute of Linguistics, University of Oslo), Kristian Kristoffersen (Professor, Institute of Linguistics, University of Oslo), Else J. Lyngseth, (Lecturer, Dronning Mauds Minne, College of Early Childhood Education, Trondheim), Ernst Ottem (Senior adviser, Bredtvet Resource Centre, Oslo), Kirsten Bjerkan (Senior adviser, Bredtvet Resource Centre, Oslo) and Guro Bergseth, (Representative from User organisation for Children with Language Difficulties).

International collaborators are Mable Rice (Professor, University of Kansas, USA), Cathy Lord (Professor, Director of the Institute of Brain Development, New York Presbyterian Hospital, USA) and Margot Prior (Professor, University of Melbourne, Australia).

SOL also has a reference group where several of the national collaborators participate alongside representatives from other large projects and institutions in Norway.