Literacy difficulties and psychiatric disorders: evidence for comorbidity

J M Carroll, B Maughan, R Goodman, H Meltzer

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290 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Literacy difficulties show high levels of comorbidity with both disruptive and emotional disorders, but questions remain over the nature and specificity of these links. Method: Relationships between specific literacy difficulties and psychiatric disorder were investigated in a large-scale national sample of children aged 9 to 15 years. Results: Specific literacy difficulties were more common in children from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and were significantly associated with increased risks of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (especially inattentive symptomatology), Conduct Disorder and anxiety disorders in both girls and boys, and with self-reports of depressed mood in boys. Associations between literacy difficulties and diagnoses of both Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Conduct Disorder (CD) were mediated by inattentiveness, as were links with low mood. Links between specific literacy difficulties and anxiety were of a different nature, suggestive of a direct impact of literacy problems on risk for anxiety disorders. Conclusions: Literacy difficulties are significantly associated with externalising disorders via inattention, but may constitute a more immediate risk factor for naturally anxious children to develop clinically significant levels of anxiety
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524 - 532
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2005


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