, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 27-55

Gender ratio in dyslexia

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This paper is based on a study carried out in Great Britain on a national sample of 11,804 ten-year olds. The first section describes an attempt to pick out cases of “specific developmental dyslexia” (Critchley 1970), a constellation or syndrome of difficulties which some believe to be recognizable clinically. When specified criteria for dyslexia were used, 269 children qualified as dyslexic (2.28 percent of the sample). These included 223 boys and 46 girls, for a ratio of 4.51 to 1. Two possible difficulties in interpreting these data are discussed, and a defense is offered of the criteria used.

Since some recent research papers report a gender ratio much nearer 1:1 (Shaywitz et al. 1990; Wadsworth et al. 1992; Lubs et al. 1993), those papers were examined for possible differences in procedure; it was found that the definition of dyslexia they used was “poor reading in relation to intelligence.” We carried out a further analysis on our own data using the same criterion. Of the 494 children who qualified as dyslexic on the basis of discrepancy criteria alone (4.19 percent of the sample), 314 were boys and 180 were girls for a ratio of 1.69 to 1. It seems, therefore, that the apparent differences in gender ratio reported in the literature have arisen because different criteria for dyslexia have been used.

We argue that the definition based on clinical criteria leads to a more powerful taxonomy and that the widespread equation of “dyslexia” with “poor reading” is a hindrance to progress.