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Persistence of literacy problems: spelling in adolescence and at mid-life

Maughan, B., Messer, J., Collishaw, Stephan, Pickles, A., Snowling, M., Yule, W. and Rutter, M. 2009. Persistence of literacy problems: spelling in adolescence and at mid-life. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 50 (8) , pp. 893-901. 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02079.x

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Background: Developmental reading problems show strong persistence across the school years; less is known about poor readers’ later progress in literacy skills. Method: Poor (n = 42) and normally developing readers (n = 86) tested in adolescence (ages 14/15 years) in the Isle of Wight epidemiological studies were re-contacted at mid-life (ages 44/45 years). Participants completed a spelling test, and reported on educational qualifications, perceived adult spelling competence, and problems in day-to-day literacy tasks. Results: Individual differences in spelling were highly persistent across this 30-year follow-up, with correlations between spelling at ages 14 and 44 years of r = .91 (p < .001) for poor readers and r = .89 (p < .001) for normally developing readers. Poor readers’ spelling remained markedly impaired at mid-life, with some evidence that they had fallen further behind over the follow-up period. Taking account of adolescent spelling levels, continued exposure to reading and literacy demands in adolescence and early adulthood was independently predictive of adult spelling in both samples; family social background added further to prediction among normally developing readers only. Conclusions: By adolescence, individual differences in spelling and its related sub-skills are highly stable. Encouraging young people with reading disabilities to maintain their exposure to reading and writing may be advantageous in the longer term.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG)
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Uncontrolled Keywords: developmental reading problems, follow-up, spelling, epidemiology, continuity, reading disorder
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0021-9630
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 03:48

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