Concurrent and longitudinal neuropsychological contributors to written language expression in first and second grade students

Abstract

The primary purpose of this study was to examine several key questions related to the neuropsychological contributors to early written language. First, can we develop an empirical measurement model that encompasses many of the neuropsychological components that have been deemed as important to the development of written language? Second, once derived, will the neuropsychological components of this model remain stable over first and second grades or will the model change in its composition? Third, will the strength of the relationships between neuropsychological components and writing outcomes be constant over time, or will the strength of the relationships change over time? Finally, will the derived empirical model show significant concurrent and predictive relationships with written expression? The sample included 205 first grade students recruited from a single school district who were followed into the second grade via two cohorts: Measures were aligned with major neuropsychological components as extracted from theoretical models of written expression and available empirical findings examining the neuropsychological contributors to writing in children. These domains included fine-motor speed, language, short-term memory, long-term memory, and various attention/executive functions including working memory. Confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) and longitudinal structural equation modeling (SEM) methods documented that three core latent traits were present and stable at both grades 1 and 2: Fine-Motor, Language, and Attention/Executive Functions. The overall model was highly related to written expression and spelling at both grades 1 and 2, with the first grade latent traits accounting for 52 and 55% of the variance in second grade written expression and spelling, respectively. At both grades, the Language and Attention/Executive Functions latent traits were more highly associated with written expression and spelling than the Fine-Motor latent trait.

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Acknowledgments

This project was completed with grant support from the Department of Education Institute for Educational Science (#R305H06042), Maternal Child Health Bureau (#MCJ379154A), and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities (#90DD043003). Additionally, the authors wish to extend their appreciation to the Orange County Schools in Hillsborough, North Carolina for their ongoing support of these research efforts, and to the children and families who have participated in this project.

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Correspondence to Stephen R. Hooper.

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Hooper, S.R., Costa, L., McBee, M. et al. Concurrent and longitudinal neuropsychological contributors to written language expression in first and second grade students. Read Writ 24, 221–252 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-010-9263-x

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Keywords

  • Neuropsychological contributors to written language
  • Written language development
  • Neuropsychological predictors of early written language
  • Written expression in early elementary school