Literacy difficulties and psychiatric disorders: evidence for comorbidity

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BackgroundLiteracy difficulties show high levels of comorbidity with both disruptive and emotional disorders, but questions remain over the nature and specificity of these links.MethodRelationships between specific literacy difficulties and psychiatric disorder were investigated in a large-scale national sample of children aged 9 to 15 years.ResultsSpecific 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.ConclusionsLiteracy 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.

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