Narrative language skills of maltreated children living in out-of-home care. Academic Article uri icon


  • Purpose: Children's narrative accounts of their experiences are central to the prosecution of perpetrators of alleged maltreatment. We describe the narrative language skills of children who were placed in out-of-home care (OOHC) following substantiated maltreatment. It was hypothesised that (i) children with such histories would display narrative language skills that fall significantly below published age-expected norms, (ii) narrative language skills and core language skills would be positively correlated and (iii) narrative language skills would be associated with measures of socio-economic disadvantage.Method: Eighty-three children (40 males and 43 females) aged 5;3 to 12;10 (M = 7.9, SD = 2.3) from English-speaking home backgrounds were assessed using the Test of Narrative Language and the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF-4) Core Language Score. The Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices, a measure of nonverbal intelligence, was employed as a covariate.Result: Forty-two percent of children scored in the below-average range on the Narrative Language Index Ability Index. The same proportion scored at/above age-expected levels on the Narrative Comprehension subtest, and 19% scored at/above age-expected levels on Oral Narration. There was a significant correlation between CELF-4 Core Language Scores and the Narrative Language Index Ability Index. Female carers' education was significantly positively associated with overall narrative language scores; however, household income and index of socio-economic disadvantage were not significantly associated with narrative language scores.Conclusion: Children who are victims of substantiated maltreatment should be considered at-risk for compromised ability to provide a narrative account of their experiences. The heterogeneity and often scant oral narrative language skills of these children highlights the importance of police/human services training on best-practice forensic interviewing. Policy and practice implications for speech-language pathology early intervention to support the needs of at-risk children are also discussed.

publication date

  • 2019