Recent research has shown that children with language impairment (LI) have increased social difficulties. This study examined the relationship between language skills and emotion understanding through recognition of facial expressions of emotion in children with LI and their typically developing peers. It is a replication of the research of Spackman, Fujiki, Brinton, Nelson, and Allen (2005) and Atwood (2006). Participants consisted of 22 children with LI and 22 age- and gender-matched peers with typically developing language, from the age range of 7:0 to 10:11 years. They were shown photographs of faces conveying one of the following emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust; they were then asked to indicate which emotion was being expressed. Group performance was then compared for each of the emotions in question. This study found significant differences between the groups (LI vs. Typical), with the children without LI recognizing each emotion more accurately than those with LI. There was also a significant main effect found for gender and emotion. These differences were qualified by a significant interaction between gender and emotion, which indicated that some emotions were identified by females more correctly than males. Specifically, females identified the emotion disgust more accurately than males. This may provide support for the idea that children with LI may have difficulties with emotion understanding, of which facial expression recognition is a specific and basic aspect; this deficit could negatively impact their social interactions.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





language impairment, facial expressions, emotion, children, emotion understanding