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Childhood Language Disorder and Social Anxiety in Early Adulthood



Language disorder is associated with anxiety and with social problems in childhood and adolescence. However, the relation between language disorder and adult social anxiety is not well known. This study examines social anxiety in early adulthood in a 26-year prospective longitudinal study following individuals identified with a communication disorder at age 5 and a control group. Social anxiety diagnoses and subthreshold symptoms were examined at ages 19, 25, and 31 using a structured diagnostic interview; social anxiety symptoms related to social interaction and social performance were also assessed dimensionally at age 31. Multiple imputation was used to address attrition. Compared to controls, participants with childhood language disorder had higher rates of subthreshold social phobia at ages 19 and 25 and endorsed higher levels of social interaction anxiety symptoms at age 31, with particular difficulty talking to others and asserting their perspectives. Childhood language disorder is a specific risk factor for a circumscribed set of social anxiety symptoms in adulthood, which are likely associated with communication challenges.

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