Children with language impairment (LI) have notable social problems (Brinton & Fujiki, 2004). Research has shown that children with LI often have deficits in working memory (Kirchner & Klatsky, 1985; Stark, Poppen, & May, 1987). The relationship between working memory and social behaviors has not been clearly defined. This study examined this relationship in children with LI and typical age-matched peers by asking participants to repeat nine nonwords and correlating these results with social behaviors as rated by teachers. The Teacher Behavior Rating Scale (TBRS; Hart and Robinson, 1996) was used to compare social behaviors of 19 school-age children with LI to 19 age-matched peers with typically developing language skills. Social behaviors were divided into two categories, withdrawal and sociability. One subtype of withdrawal (reticence) and two subtypes of sociability (prosocial and likeability) were examined. Nonword repetition is a culturally nonbiased measurement of the ability to form phonological representation of nonwords in working memory (Edwards & Lahey, 1998). A modified version of Edwards and Lahey's nonword repetition task was used to assess working memory. Teachers rated children with LI as demonstrating higher levels of reticence and lower levels of both types of sociability than typical children. Children with LI performed poorer on the nonword repetition task at all syllable lengths (3-syllable, 4-syllable, and 5 syllable). Analyses of covariance were performed, including all participants, to identify if there were significant relationships between social behaviors and working memory. The results indicated that working memory was a significant factor for reticence, likeability, and prosocial behaviors. Regression analyses indicated that nonword repetition scores were significant predictors of reticence, accounting for 28% of the variance, likeability, accounting for 18% of the variance, and prosocial behaviors, accounting for 11% of the variance. As working memory increased, reticence decreased and both likeability and prosocial skills increased. Further analyses showed that only likeability was significantly influenced by language group and gender. Group specific analyses indicated that likeability was predicted by working memory for typical peers but not for children with LI. Working memory was also a stronger predictor of likeability for males than females.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





language impairment, social behaviors, working memory, nonword repetition, short-term memory