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Language Skills of Children Adopted from China and Their Non-Adopted Peers

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  • Children adopted from China (CAC) have a unique path of language development, as they are cast abruptly into a new ambient language, typically with limited or no ongoing exposure to their birth language. They often face additional risks of speech and language delays due to a history of institutionalization. Despite these risk factors, previous studies have found that overall, CAC had language skills that were average to high when compared to test norms. One possible explanation for this finding is that the relatively older age and higher education levels of adoptive parents may create a particularly language rich environment that compensates for disruptions in early language learning. While a range of parent ages and education levels are represented in the general population (on which the tests were originally normed), this is not true of the CAC population. Thus, while these results are compelling, their interpretation is limited by the lack of a control group matched for parental age and education. The present study sought to enrich the findings of previous research by recruiting a control group of non-adopted children that match the age, parental age, and parental education profiles of a subset of CAC who had participated in earlier studies. Parents of 20 new control participants completed the Children’s Communication Checklist – 2 and the parent report form of the Social Skills Improvement System, and their results were compared to those of the matched group of CAC. When matched to their non-adopted peers for parent age and education, the CAC group did not differ from the control group on the General Communication Composite of the CCC-2 or any of the subscales for vocabulary and structural aspects of language. Ultimately, CAC performed comparably to other children with highly educated parents on the structural aspects of language. However, group differences were found on subscales of Nonverbal Communication and Social Relations. While no significant group differences were found on the SSiS composite scores for Social Skills or Problem Behaviours, the subscale for Autism Spectrum Disorder approached significance. Though overall the CAC performed comparably to non-adopted peers with highly educated parents, some exhibited difficulties in social communication and behaviour. Some CAC participants had histories of attachment disorders, which may have resulted from a lack of stimulation and reduced caregiver bonding prior to adoption. The relationship between attachment disorders and social communication and behavior warrants further investigation..

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International