Bidirectional Relationship Between Language Skills and Behavior Problems in Preschool Children From Low-Income Families

Krystal Bichay-Awadalla, Cathy Huaqing Qi, Rebecca Shearer, Judith J. Carta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The purpose of this study was to examine the longitudinal, bidirectional relationship between language skills and behavior problems in a sample of 194 preschool children enrolled in Head Start programs. Children were individually assessed using the Preschool Language Scale-5, and teachers completed the Child Behavior Checklist-Teacher Report 1½–5. Cross-lagged path models using a structural equation modeling approach tested the reciprocal associations between language skills and behavior problems over the preschool year. Findings supported a bidirectional relationship between internalizing behavior problems and expressive language skills. However, findings supported a unidirectional association between early receptive language skills and later internalizing behavior problems. Gender moderated the relationship between receptive and expressive language skills and internalizing behavior problems in such a way that the association was only significant for girls. Implications for early intervention and prevention efforts targeting language development and behavior problems were discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • Head Start
  • internalizing and externalizing problems
  • preschool children
  • receptive and expressive language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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