Relationships Between Learning Difficulties and Psychological Problems in Preadolescent Children From a Longitudinal Sample Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVES: To examine the relationships between learning difficulties and behavior problems in preadolescent children both concurrently and longitudinally, using data from the Australian Temperament Project, and to examine associations between DSM-diagnosed disorders and types of learning difficulties. METHOD: Clinical and comparison groups of 11- to 12-year-old children were assessed on behavioral and learning indices and completed a structured diagnostic interview. Longitudinal data were available from earlier surveys of the development of these children. RESULTS: Children in the clinical group were disadvantaged on all learning and behavioral indices, and their problems in many cases had been evident from 7 to 8 years of age. There were specific associations between types of learning difficulties and both internalizing and externalizing disorders. Numeracy difficulties were strongly associated with DSM diagnoses for both boys and girls, and externalizing problems tended to co-occur with a combination of learning problems. CONCLUSIONS: Behavioral maladjustment in many domains is strongly associated with learning difficulties even after intelligence and socioeconomic factors are controlled. The odds ratios for persistence of difficulties throughout elementary school are extremely high for children with clinical problems.

publication date

  • April 1999