The Relationship Between Emotional Regulation, Language Skills, and Internalising and Externalising Difficulties in Adolescence

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Jessica Butcher
Submitted: June 2015


Internalising and externalising difficulties are associated with negative outcomes for young people, such as school refusal, school exclusion, educational underachievement, and mental health problems in adulthood. It is therefore important to find ways to support young people with such difficulties. Difficulties in emotional regulation (ER) and language difficulties are reported to be associated with internalising and externalising difficulties in children and young people. However, there has only been a limited amount of research in this area and previous studies were subject to methodological limitations. This thesis had two aims: firstly, to explore the associations between ER strategies and adolescent mental health problems. This issue was examined in a systematic literature review which found that ER strategies were related to internalising and externalising difficulties in adolescents. However, the review highlighted the lack of research in this area, particularly in relation to externalising difficulties. Secondly, the empirical study described in this thesis explored the role of ER strategies and expressive language skills in young people and their associations with internalising and externalising difficulties. Fifty-five participants completed a range of measures exploring their expressive language abilities, use of ER strategies, and an experimental frustration task examining emotional reactivity, recovery and intensity. It was found that the language measures were not associated with internalising or externalising difficulties. However, there was a tentative suggestion that functional language skills may increase adaptive ER strategies and reduce non-adaptive ER strategies. Internalising difficulties were strongly associated with non-adaptive cognitive ER strategies following stress, whereas externalising difficulties were strongly associated with fewer adaptive ER strategies. Emotional intensity during frustration was related to both internalising and externalising difficulties. Conclusions and implications for educational practice are discussed.

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Why should low socioeconomic status be related to problems with language acquisition?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Lindsay Patterson
Submitted: December 2011

The relationship between low socioeconomic status and problems with language acquisition has been well researched, but is often attributed to a very wide array of factors. Researchers have predominantly investigated this relationship from a social interactionist perspective, considering the impact of factors such as maternal education levels, parental warmth and quality of paid care provision. Increasingly, there is also research being carried out by neuropsychologists who are investigating how prenatal factors such as maternal alcohol and nicotine consumption may impact the child’s developing brain.

This essay investigates a selection of the issues linked with socioeconomic status and considers how they could impact on a child’s language acquisition. The essay concludes that in this case socioeconomic status is essentially a redundant variable – there are such a high number of interacting influences which could impact on a child’s language acquisition that the label of low socioeconomic status has the potential to mask the real cause of language problems. With this in mind, the essay makes recommendations for interventions which an Educational Psychologist could put in place in order to try to address some of the causal variables associated with poor language acquisition.

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To what extent do secondary caregivers have a unique role in children’s language development and how might this be explained?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Cora Sargeant
Submitted: December 2010

The role of mothers in children’s language development has been well researched but the contribution made by fathers has received less attention. Mothers spend more time talking with children and are more attuned to their developmental level than fathers. The dominant social interactionist perspective considers the communicative competence of others and the frequency of exposure to language to be important factors in language development. As such it would be reasonable to assume the contribution made by fathers to language development to be only an additive to that of mothers. This essay investigates the paradox that, though fathers have more difficulty communicating effectively with children than mothers, and do so less often, recent research suggests that they may have a unique role to play in language development. The essay concludes that the unique role of fathers is only possible because they are incompletely attuned to their child’s developmental level. The essay also concludes that this is due to differences in the roles of secondary and primary caregiver rather than due to gender differences between mother and father. Implications of these findings for single-parent families and early interventions for children with language difficulties are discussed.

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