Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of a positive family history of speech and/or language impairments in an African American sample. The first phase of the study used questionnaires from the primary caregivers of 161 children. The questionnaires allowed for an examination of family history as a function of a child’s socioeconomic level (+/- high school level of maternal education), educational placement (+/- receipt of services by a speech language clinician), and clinical status (+/- profile consistent with a diagnosis of SLI). The second phase of the study included interviews that were collected from 17 families who completed the questionnaires. All families who indicated a willingness to be interviewed were called, but only 17 were accessible by phone. Through the interviews, the family histories of the children were further documented. Results were that families from low socioeconomic backgrounds reported greater rates of a positive speech and/or language family history than those from middle socioeconomic backgrounds. Families of children classified as SLI also reported higher rates of a positive family history than the families of children who were not classified as SLI, and this comparison controlled for differences in the families’ socioeconomic levels. Significant differences in positive family history rates were not found to be related to the children’s educational placements. Results from the phone interviews revealed that of those children whose families reported a positive speech and/or language history, the number of members within each family who reported a positive history ranged from one to five (mean = 1.8 family members; SD = 1.3). Half of these members were in the children’s immediate families, while the other half were in their extended families. Given the limited number of families who participated in the interviews, an examination of these data as a function of the children’s socioeconomic status, educational placement, and clinical status was not completed. Together, these findings support the claim that the clinical diagnosis of SLI has a familial component, but future studies that seek to explore this familial component need to measure, and rigorously control for, the socioeconomic levels of children and their families.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Janna Oetting