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Exploration of a 'double-jeopardy' hypothesis within working memory profiles for children with specific language impairment

Briscoe, J; Rankin, PM; (2009) Exploration of a 'double-jeopardy' hypothesis within working memory profiles for children with specific language impairment. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders , 44 (2) 236 - 250.

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Background: Children with specific language impairment (SLI) often experience difficulties in the recall and repetition of verbal information. Archibald and Gathercole (2006) suggested that children with SLI are vulnerable across two separate components of a tripartite model of working memory (Baddeley and Hitch 1974). However, the hierarchical relationship between the 'slave' systems (temporary storage) and the central executive components places a particular challenge for interpreting working memory profiles within a tripartite model. Aims: This study aimed to examine whether a 'double-jeopardy' assumption is compatible with a hierarchical relationship between the phonological loop and central executive components of the working memory model in children with SLI. If a strong double-jeopardy assumption is valid for children with SLI, it was predicted that raw scores of working memory tests thought to tap phonological loop and central executive components of tripartite working memory would be lower than the scores of children matched for chronological age and those of children matched for language level, according to independent sources of constraint. In contrast, a hierarchical relationship would imply that a weakness in a slave component of working memory (the phonological loop) would also constrain performance on tests tapping a super-ordinate component (central executive). This locus of constraint would predict that scores of children with SLI on working memory tests that tap the central executive would be weaker relative to the scores of chronological age-matched controls only. Methods Procedures: Seven subtests of the Working Memory Test Battery for Children (Digit recall, Word recall, Non-word recall, Word matching, Listening recall, Backwards digit recall and Block recall; Pickering and Gathercole 2001) were administered to 14 children with SLI recruited via language resource bases and specialist schools, as well as two control groups matched on chronological age and vocabulary level, respectively. Mean group differences were ascertained by directly comparing raw scores on memory tests linked to different components of the tripartite model using a series of multivariate analyses. Outcomes Results: The majority of working memory scores of the SLI group were depressed relative to chronological age-matched controls, with the exception of spatial recall (block tapping) and word (order) matching tasks. Marked deficits in serial recall of words and digits were evident, with the SLI group scoring more poorly than the language-ability matched control group on these measures. Impairments of the SLI group on phonological loop tasks were robust, even when covariance with executive working memory scores was accounted for. There was no robust effect of group on complex working memory (central executive) tasks, despite a slight association between listening recall and phonological loop measures. Conclusions Implications: A predominant feature of the working memory profile of SLI was a marked deficit on phonological loop tasks. Although scores on complex working memory tasks were also depressed, there was little evidence for a strong interpretation of double-jeopardy within working memory profiles for these children, rather these findings were consistent with an interpretation of a constraint on phonological loop for children with SLI that operated at all levels of a hierarchical tripartite model of working memory (Baddeley and Hitch 1974). These findings imply that low scores on complex working memory tasks alone do not unequivocally imply n independent deficit in central executive (domain-general) resources of working memory and should therefore be treated cautiously in a clinical context

Type: Article
Title: Exploration of a 'double-jeopardy' hypothesis within working memory profiles for children with specific language impairment
Additional information: WoS ID: 000263570400008 J
Keywords: methods
UCL classification: UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Child Health
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/50698
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