Behavioural difficulties that co-occur with specific word reading difficulties: A UK population- based cohort study.


This study aimed to examine the association between specific word reading difficulties (SWRD) identified at age 7 years using a discrepancy approach and subsequent dimensional measures of behavioural difficulties reported by teachers and parents at age 11 years. Behavioural problems were assessed using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Secondary analysis of a UK representative population-based sample of children (n = 12 631) was conducted using linear regression models. There were 284 children (2.2%) identified with SWRD at age 7 years. Children with SWRD had significantly higher scores on all measures of behavioural difficulties in unadjusted analysis. SWRD was associated with elevated behavioural difficulties at age 11 years according to parent report, and with greater emotional problems, hyperactivity and conduct issues according to teachers, even after having controlled for baseline difficulties. These results were replicated for children with low reading attainment, but no cognitive ability discrepancy. Categories of special educational need into which children with SWRD were classed at school were varied. Given high rates of co-occurring behavioural difficulties, assessment that identifies each individual child’s specific functional, rather than categorical, difficulties is likely to be the most effective way of providing classroom support.