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Resilience with a Language Disorder: What factors predict positive outcomes for individuals with Developmental Language Disorders?

Project Description


Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is a common but under-researched childhood developmental disorder that affects approximately 7.6% of the population. DLD is associated with a wide range of long-term outcomes, including increased rates of conduct problems, emotional difficulties, and peer problems in childhood (e.g., Forrest et al., 2018; St Clair et al., 2011, 2019). Additionally, from adolescence onwards there is an increased rate of psychiatric problems. Although the increased risk of these outcomes is well established, there is substantial variability in the likelihood that these any of these outcomes will occur for any one individual.

Very little research has investigated either the strengths that might co-occur with DLD or what kind resilience factors might protect individuals with DLD from maladaptive outcomes. This PhD will seek to address both of these areas, firstly looking for specific areas of strength that might occur with language difficulties, such as enhanced creativity. Secondly, we will look for DLD-specific resilience factors that might help children with DLD to avoid negative long-term outcomes often associated with their condition. Possible DLD-specific resilience factors might be early diagnosis, more time spent in Speech-Language Therapy, extra support at school, older siblings and sibling closeness. Siblings may be key as they could represent a model for good socialisation skills, which children with DLD often struggle with. Thirdly, we will explore the role of general resilience factors in moderating long-term outcomes of children with DLD. These may include secure attachment and close relationships, high self-esteem, good emotional competence, temperamental factors (e.g., adaptability, negative emotionality), self-efficacy, and perseverance.

This PhD will utilise secondary data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) as well as the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS). This methodology allows us to both identify children with DLD and investigate their early life (including potentially looking at factors prior to their Language Disorder emerging) as well as looking at their long-term outcomes into adolescence (MCS) and adulthood (ALSPAC). Methods will include latent class analysis to determine unique clustering of outcomes (both strengths and maladaptive outcomes) and resilience factors. Latent Class Growth Analysis may be utilised to identify subgroups of children with DLD who have positive trajectories. We can then compare different resilience factors in these trajectories against subgroups of children with DLD with more maladaptive trajectories.

The successful applicant will be supported by a strong supervisory team which includes internationally recognised researchers; Dr Michelle St Clair (University of Bath), Dr Yvonne Wren (University of Bristol), and Dr Rachel Hiller (University of Bath).


Applications are invited from excellent candidates with a First or Upper Second Class degree and/or Master’s degree and/or equivalent professional practice in Psychology or a closely related area.


Please contact Dr St Clair () with a CV to express your interest in applying for this studentship and find out more about the proposed project.

The application process has two stages: the first involves submitting a short research proposal (2-3 paragraphs), a CV, and degree transcripts to Dr St Clair by 1st December 2019. The second involves submitting a formal online application to study a PhD in Psychology, if advised to do so, to the University of Bath by 21st January 2020 12 noon GMT. The successful applicant will be closely supported in developing a research proposal.

Funding Notes

If successful, funding would be provided by either an SWDTP ESRC studentship or a University of Bath studentship (URSA). Eligible applicants may receive for three years of full-time study: Home/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend for living costs as per research council rates. Students also receive a personal allowance for training and conference attendance.

To check what kind of award you may be eligible for, please see here: View Website

Successful applicants would be expected to commence their PhD studies in September 2020.


Forrest, C. L., Gibson, J. L., Halligan, S. L., & St Clair, M. C. (2018). A longitudinal analysis of early language difficulty and peer problems on later emotional difficulties in adolescence: Evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study. Autism and Developmental Language Impairments, 3, 1-15.

St Clair, M. C., Forrest, C. L., Yew, S. G. K., & Gibson, J. L. (2019). Early Risk Factors and Emotional Difficulties in Children at Risk of Developmental Language Disorder: A Population Cohort Study. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 62(8), 2750-2771.

How good is research at University of Bath in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.20

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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