Specific language impairment in families: Evidence for co-occurrence with reading impairments

Judy F. Flax, Teresa Realpe-Bonilla, Linda S. Hirsch, Linda M. Brzustowicz, Christopher W. Bartlett, Paula Tallal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Two family aggregation studies report the occurrence and co-occurrence of oral language impairments (LIs) and reading impairments (RIs). Study 1 examined the occurrence (rate) of LI and RI in children with specific language impairment (SLI probands), a matched control group, and all nuclear family members. Study 2 included a larger sample of SLI probands, as well as their nuclear and extended family members. Probands and their family members who met specific criteria were classified as language and/or reading impaired based on current testing. In Study 1, the rates of LI and RI for nuclear family members (excluding probands) were significantly higher than those for control family members. In the SLI families, affected family members were more likely to have both LI and RI than either impairment alone. In Study 2, 68% of the SLI probands also met the diagnostic classification for RI. The language and RI rates for the other family members, excluding probands, were 25% and 23% respectively, with a high degree of co-occurrence of LI and RI (46%) in affected individuals. Significant sex ratio differences were found across generations in the families of SLI probands. There were more male than female offspring in these families, and more males than females were found to have both LIs and RIs. Results demonstrate that when LIs occur within families of SLI probands, these impairments generally co-occur with RIs. Our data are also consistent with prior findings that males show impairments more often than females.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)530-543
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


  • Family aggregation
  • Reading impairment
  • Sex ratio
  • Specific language impairment


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