Using polygenic profiles to predict variation in language and psychosocial outcomes in early and middle childhood

Dianne F Newbury, Jenny Gibson, Gina Conti-Ramsden, Andrew Pickles, Kevin Durkin, Umar Toseeb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Children with poor language tend to have worse psychosocial outcomes compared to their typically developing peers. The most common explanations for such adversities focus on developmental psychological processes whereby poor language triggers psychosocial difficulties. Here we investigate the possibility of shared biological effects by considering whether the same genetic variants which are thought to influence language development are also predictors of elevated psychosocial difficulties during childhood. Method: Using data from the UK based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) we created a number of multi-SNP polygenic profile scores, based on language and reading candidate genes (ATP2C2, CMIP, CNTNAP2, DCDC2, FOXP2, & KIAA0319, 1229 SNPs) in a sample of 5,435 children. Results: A polygenic profile score for expressive language (8 years) that was created in a discovery sample (n=2,718), predicted not only expressive language (8 years), but also peer problems (11 years) in a replication sample (n=2,717). Conclusions: These findings provide a proof of concept for the use of such a polygenic approach in child language research when larger datasets become available. Our indicative findings suggest consideration should be given to concurrent intervention targeting both linguistic and psychosocial development as early language interventions may not stave off later psychosocial difficulties in children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3381-3396
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research (JSLHR)
Early online date19 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • Polygenic Risk
  • Language
  • Developmental Language Disorder
  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Conduct
  • Hyperactivity
  • Peer Problems
  • Prosocial
  • Psychopathology

Cite this