The impact of the transition from primary to secondary school on the psychosocial and literacy development of adolescents with Developmental Language Disorder, adolescents with Low Language ability, and their typically developing peers.

  • Dr. Sheila Maria Gough Kenyon

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the impact of transition from primary to secondary school for adolescents (aged 10-12) with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD, n=30), Low Language (LL, n=29) ability, and typically developing peers (TD, n=48). There is a paucity of research on this transition in DLD/LL. Standardized language and psychosocial assessments were administered in Spring and Summer terms of the final year of primary school (Y6), and Autumn and Summer terms of the first year in secondary school (Y7). The first research question compared levels of Social Competency, Emotion Processing, Emotional Wellbeing, Literacy Skill and School Concerns between groups. There were significant group differences in Emotion Recognition pre-transition and in psychosocial outcomes post-transition. The second research question examined the stability of psychosocial/educational indicators over the transition. Social Competency, Emotional Regulation and Psychological Wellbeing remained stable pre- to post-transition for all groups; Literacy Skill was less stable. School Concerns reduced for each group, although this reduction did not continue until the end of Y7 for the DLD group, as for LL and TD groups. The third research question explored the longitudinal relationship between School Concern and psychosocial/educational indicators over the transition. Regression analyses showed pre-transition concern to be predicted by Emotion Recognition for the DLD group, by Social Competence and Emotional Wellbeing for the LL group, and by Social Competence for the TD group. Post-transition concern was predicted by Emotional Wellbeing for the LL group; with no significant predictors for DLD/TD groups. Path analyses revealed an association between Literacy Skill and Emotion Recognition for the DLD group. The Developmental Cascade illustrated a relationship between Sociability and Emotional Wellbeing for the TD group. This thesis concludes that the inclusion of a LL group is imperative, because their outcomes cannot be predicted using DLD/TD research, and transition interventions must be differentiated according to language ability.
Date of Award7 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SponsorsUniversity of Roehampton Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship
SupervisorCecilia Essau (Director of Studies), Olympia Palikara (Co-Supervisor) & Rebecca Lucas (Co-Supervisor)


  • Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)
  • Literacy
  • Emotional Wellbeing
  • Emotion Recognition
  • Social Competence
  • Adolescence
  • Transition
  • Low Language Ability

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