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Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research






American Speech - Language - Hearing Association

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Purpose: The storage-only deficit and joint mechanism deficit hypotheses are two possible explanations of the verbal working memory (vWM) storage capacity limitation of school-age children with developmental language disorder (DLD). We assessed the merits of each hypothesis in a large group of children with DLD and a group of same-age typically developing (TD) children.

Method: Participants were 117 children with DLD and 117 propensity-matched TD children 7-11 years of age. Children completed tasks indexing vWM capacity, verbal short-term storage, sustained attention, attention switching, and lexical long-term memory (LTM).

Results: For the DLD group, all of the mechanisms jointly explained 26.5% of total variance. Storage accounted for the greatest portion (13.7%), followed by controlled attention (primarily sustained attention 6.5%), and then lexical LTM (5.6%). For the TD group, all three mechanisms together explained 43.9% of total variance. Storage accounted for the most variance (19.6%), followed by lexical LTM (16.0%), sustained attention (5.4%), and attention switching (3.0%). There was a significant LTM by Group interaction in which stronger LTM scores were associated with significantly higher vWM capacity scores for the TD group as compared to the DLD group.

Conclusions: Results support a joint mechanism deficit account of the vWM capacity limitation of children with DLD. Results provide substantively new insights into the underlying factors of the vWM capacity limitation in DLD.