Speed of processing, working memory, and language impairment in children

Laurence B. Leonard, Susan Ellis Weismer, Carol A. Miller, David J. Francis, J. Bruce Tomblin, Robert V. Kail

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

388 Scopus citations


Purpose: Children with language impairment (LI) often perform below the level of typically developing peers on measures of both processing speed and working memory. This study examined the relationship between these 2 types of measures and attempted to determine whether such measures can account for the LI itself. Method: Fourteen-year-old children with LI and their typically developing peers participated in a wide range of processing speed and working memory tasks and were administered a comprehensive language test battery. Confirmatory factor analyses were used to compare 3 nested models designed to examine the dimensionality of the speed and working memory measures. A model that included a general speed factor was also evaluated. Results: The models meeting our evaluation criteria treated speed and working memory as separable factors. Furthermore, nonverbal as well as verbal processing factors emerged from these analyses. Latent variable regression analyses showed that each of the appropriate models accounted for 62% of the variance in the children's concurrent composite language test scores, with verbal working memory making the largest contribution. Conclusions: These findings shed light on the relationship among different types of processing and suggest that processing factors can contribute to the understanding of language disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)408-428
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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