Date of Conferral

2015

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Psychology

Advisor

Gary Burkholder

Abstract

The normative development of language is often taken for granted, yet problems with language development can result in stress for the individual and family. A challenge with these language development problems lies within the contemporary education system, which assumes that children have appropriate skills when they begin school. The purpose of the study was to test a theoretical model of language readiness known as language-based cognitive fitness, which includes measures associated with structural concepts of language involving receptive language, expressive language, spontaneous narrative speech, and writing fluency. The sample included children from a private school who received an extensive battery of tests at admission and annually thereafter. Scores from a variety of cognitive measures were used in a structural equation modeling framework to test the model. Results demonstrated language-based cognitive fitness to be an interplay of verbal reasoning abilities, visual synthesis, and active analysis broadly representing receptive language, expressive language, spontaneous narrative expression, and writing fluency. Verbal reasoning, visual synthesis, and active analysis explained 91% of the variance in achievement. Implications for positive social change include an improved understanding for those who work with children's language development, specifically of the language structures responsible for language deficits and how these relate to overall cognitive fitness; interventions can be provided to help children more quickly make up language deficits.

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