Interrelationships Between Working Memory, Processing Speed, and Language Development in the Age Range 2–4 years Purpose This study explored associations between working memory and language in children aged 2–4 years. Method Seventy-seven children aged 24–30 months were assessed on tests measuring language, visual cognition, verbal working memory (VWM), phonological short-term memory (PSTM), and processing speed. A standardized test of receptive and expressive language ... Research Article
Research Article  |   October 01, 2016
Interrelationships Between Working Memory, Processing Speed, and Language Development in the Age Range 2–4 years
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Jayne Newbury
    University of Canterbury, New Zealand
  • Thomas Klee
    University of Canterbury, New Zealand
  • Stephanie F. Stokes
    University of Canterbury, New Zealand
  • Catherine Moran
    University of Canterbury, New Zealand
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Jayne Newbury: jayne.newbury@canterbury.ac.nz
  • Thomas Klee and Stephanie F. Stokes are now at the University of Hong Kong.
    Thomas Klee and Stephanie F. Stokes are now at the University of Hong Kong.×
  • Editor: Rhea Paul
    Editor: Rhea Paul×
  • Associate Editor: Margarita Kaushanskaya
    Associate Editor: Margarita Kaushanskaya×
Article Information
Development / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 2016
Interrelationships Between Working Memory, Processing Speed, and Language Development in the Age Range 2–4 years
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2016, Vol. 59, 1146-1158. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-L-15-0322
History: Received September 14, 2015 , Revised December 21, 2015 , Accepted April 5, 2016
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2016, Vol. 59, 1146-1158. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-L-15-0322
History: Received September 14, 2015; Revised December 21, 2015; Accepted April 5, 2016
Web of Science® Times Cited: 1

Purpose This study explored associations between working memory and language in children aged 2–4 years.

Method Seventy-seven children aged 24–30 months were assessed on tests measuring language, visual cognition, verbal working memory (VWM), phonological short-term memory (PSTM), and processing speed. A standardized test of receptive and expressive language was used as the outcomes measure 18 months later.

Results There were moderate-to-strong longitudinal bivariate relationships between the 3 processing measures and language outcomes. Early VWM showed the strongest bivariate relationship with both later expressive (r = .71) and receptive language (r = .72). In a hierarchical multiple regression analysis, adding early VWM, PSTM, and processing speed improved prediction of receptive and expressive language outcomes (12%–13% additional variance) compared with models consisting only of early receptive or expressive language, parent education, and age.

Conclusions Unique associations in hierarchical regression analyses were demonstrated between VWM at age two years and receptive and expressive language skills at age four, and between early processing speed and later receptive language. However, early PSTM did not predict unique variance in language outcomes, as it shared variance with other measures.

Acknowledgments
This research was funded by a grant from the Marsden Fund, Royal Society of New Zealand (uoc1003) to authors Klee, Stokes, and Moran and a doctoral scholarship awarded to the first author from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. We thank our research assistants (Jenna Chaffee, Jane McKinnon, Asifa Sultana, and Emma Irvine), Dr. William Gavin, Dr. Margaret McClaghan, and Sarah Kerr for technical support and Dr. Elena Molchanova and Dr. Daniel Gerhard for statistical advice. Thanks also to our local health and education providers who helped with recruiting participants. Most of all, thanks to the families and children who made this study possible.
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