Mental Health for the Young & their Families in Victoria is a collaborative partnership between mental health & other health professionals, service users & the general public.
PO Box 206,
Parkville, Vic 3052
PROJECT EVIDENCE for Prevention of Mental Disorders. The project coordinator is Dr Allan Mawdsley. The version can be amended by consent. If you wish to contribute to the project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
 Indicated Programs are those for young people who will inevitably develop mental disorders unless there is preventive intervention.
[3 c ] Social factors
i Child victims of abuse
ii Juvenile Justice clients
[3 c ii ] Juvenile Justice clients
Language is an essential part of our human functioning. Not only is communication crucial for our social relationships 1 but it is a fundamental component of our thinking processes 2 and our emotional state. 3 Impairments or delays in language development are highly correlated with impairments in executive functioning. ie capacity for impulse control, reflective thoughtfulness, delay of gratification, strategic planning, tactfulness and consideration of consequences. 4
Two thirds of young people in the Juvenile Justice system have impaired language development. 5 Whilst this may or may not have been the primary cause of their misbehaviour it is always a major factor in the outcome. 6 Not only do they almost always have poor executive functioning that contributes to their poor judgment of consequences, impulsiveness and lack of consideration for others, but also have poor abilities in understanding the complexities of their situation and what has to be done to resolve it. 7
These impairments make it difficult to deal with problem behaviour and make it more likely that it will keep happening in the future. 8 It is in the young person’s best interests, and in the best interests of society as a whole, for improvements in their executive functioning, social and emotional and communication skills. 9
Research indicates that appropriate programs can make a difference to communication skills. 10 Improved communication skills can make a difference to social competence, emotional well-being and executive functioning. 11 This improves the outcome for the young person in terms of quality of life and for the Juvenile Justice system in terms of reduced recidivism. 12
This has been recognized by the Juvenile Justice authorities in Victoria through participation of all young offenders in schooling programs enhanced by specialist assessments and interventions with language development programs. 13 This is aimed at helping the young people become more productive members of society and less likely to engage in recidivist offending. Ongoing evaluative research is being undertaken to clarify the effectiveness of various interventions. 14
The cost of implementing such programs is believed to be small compared to the benefits of greater productivity and reduced costs of recidivist delinquent behaviour and necessary ongoing social support programs, possibly even to subsequent generations. The verification of the estimated cost-effectiveness of these interventions will take some years of follow-up research. Even a cost-neutral outcome would be a program success, but the benefits are likely to be shown to be much greater.
An interesting question is whether the programs can be effective with young adult offenders who have developmental language delays, which could warrant consideration of implementation in the adult forensic system.
There are more profound implications for the general education system. If language development programs can work for seriously impaired adolescents, how much better will they work for mildly impaired young children? Pedagogic research tells us that the earlier a remedial program can be implemented, the greater the response.
If the language enrichment of universal early childhood education programs could be intensified for children seen to have developmental delays, rather than waiting until failed schooling has led to Juvenile Justice intervention, the degree of response might well avert many of these later complications.
Developmental language disorders have been found to contribute to the development of personality disorders in adulthood (Mourisden & Hauschild, 2009). Starling (2003) reported school-aged children and adolescents with language-learning disability are at an increased risk for significant academic, social, emotional and behavioural problems and are more likely to exit school early, often with minimal marketable work skills and little prospect of successful engagement in further education.
Snow (2009a) identified that socially disadvantaged groups in society are at greater risk for both communication and mental health problems along with the potential for intergenerational transfer of such problems.Communication disorders are also reported as diagnostic criteria in a range of mental health disorders for example; autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit disorders, behavioural disorders, developmental language and speech disorders, schizophrenia and psychosis and dementia (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, and World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases, 1993).
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed, text revised. Washington, DC, APA.
Beitchman, J. H., Brownlie, E.B., Inglis, A., Wild, J., Ferguson, B., Schachter, D., Lancee, W., Wilson, B., & Matthews, R. (1996). Seven-year follow-up of speech/language impaired and control children: psychiatric outcomes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 37 (8), 961-970.
Beitchman, J. H., Wilson, B., Johnson, C., Young, A., Atkinson, L., Escobar, M. & Taback, N. (2001a).Fourteen year follow-up of speech/language-impaired and control children: Psychiatric outcome. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40 (1), 75-82.
Bryan K, & Roach J. (2001) Assessment of speech and language in mental health. In: J. France & S.Kramer (eds). Communication and mental illness. Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London. pp 110122
Caplan, R. (1996). Discourse deficits in childhood schizophrenia. In, J. Beitchman, N. Cohen, M. Konstantareas, & Tannock, R (Eds.). Language, Learning and Behaviour Disorders, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Clarke, A. (2006). Charting a life: Analysis of 50 adolescents in a long-stay mental health unit. Conference Proceedings, 17th World congress of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professionals. Melbourne, Australia.
Clegg, J., Hollis, C., Mawhood, L., & Rutter, M. (2005). Developmental language disorders-a follow-up in later adult life: cognitive, language and psychosocial outcomes. Journal of Child Psychiatry, 46 (2), 128-149.
Cohen, N. J., Menna, R., Vallance, D.D., Barwick, M.A., Im., N., & Horodezky, N.B. (1998). Language, social-cognitive processing, and behavioral characteristics of psychiatrically disturbed children with previously identified and unsuspected language impairments. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 39 (6), 853-864.
Perrott, D. (2010). Adolescent communication: pragmatic skills. PhD (in progress). Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
Perrott, D. (1998). Adolescent Communication: Self-evaluation of the use and competency of pragmatic skills between depressed and non-depressed adolescents. Masters Thesis. Department Page 6
Segrin, C. & Flora., J. (2000). Poor social skills are a vulnerability factor in the development of psychosocial problems. Human Communication Research, 26 (3), 489-514.
Snow, P.C. (2009a). Oral language competence and equity of access to education and health. In K. Bryan (Ed) Communication in Healthcare. Interdisciplinary Communication Studies Volume 1 (Series Editor: Colin B. Grant), (pp101-134). Bern: Peter Lang European Academic Publishers.
Starling, J. (2003). Getting the message across: safeguarding the mental health of adolescents with communication disorders. Acquiring Knowledge in Speech, Language and Hearing, 5 (1), 37-39.
Whitehouse, A., (2009). Differentiating between childhood communication disorders. Acquiring Knowledge in Speech,Language and Hearing, 11 (3).
World Health Organization (1993) International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th revision, Geneva, WHO.
“Many young offenders have comorbid mental health problems and their interface with youth justice services often triggers a referral for psychological services (this may be mandated, eg.,for sex offenders, or young people needing assistance with anger management or substance abuse). While interventions such as CBT and motivational interviewing have been shown to be efficacious with a wide range of high prevalence mental health/substance abuse disorders, these are talk therapies – that is, they rely on highly verbal interchanges and often operate at a meta-level (e.g., thinking about ones’ own thinking).
It is common in the course of psychological therapies too, for clinicians to use metaphors and analogies, which further draw on language and verbal reasoning abilities. While skilled practitioners may intuitively ‘titrate’ their language use in the therapeutic setting, it is likely that many young offenders struggle with the demands of these verbally-based interventions, and may, as a consequence, appear to be poorly engaged in the therapeutic relationship.
Language deficits are not only invisible, but tend to masquerade as low IQ, or as behavioural phenomena such as rudeness, disinterest or poor motivation, all of which may harm a young person’s education and/or passage through the justice system.”
Howland, K. (2010). Strategies to Develop Executive Control Skills in Language-Impaired Children. Paper presented at the American Speech Language Hearing Association Conference, 2010.
Hungerford, S., Call-Morin, K., Bassendowski, N., Whitford, S. (2009). Do Executive Skills or Language Skills Best Predict Social Competence? Paper presented at the American Speech Language Hearing Association Conference, 2009.
Hungerford, S. and Gonyo, K. (2007). Relationships Between Executive Functions and Language Variables. Paper presented at the American Speech Language Hearing Association Conference, 2007.
Singer, B.D. & Bashir, A.S. (1999). What are executive functions and self-regulation and what do they have to do with language learning disorders? Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 30, pp. 256-273.
Young people who have experienced stressful early social-emotional environments are likely to be hypervigilant to the risk of interpersonal threat and have poorly developed social cognition skills. Coupling these risks with low socioeconomic status (overwhelmingly the case for young people in the youth justice system) creates a set of developmental conditions in which language development cannot flourish.”
Using a cross sectional design, 93 Canadian federal inmates, categorized as either first timers (n=56) or return inmates (n=37) were tested on a battery of executive cognitive-functioning measures. In keeping with our hypotheses, return inmates showed more severe and pervasive patterns of executive dysfunction. These results suggest that improved focus on ameliorating ECF deficits of offenders may further assist in decreasing recidivism.”
Ross,Erin H and Hoaken, Peter N. “Executive Cognitive Functioning Abilities of Male First Time and Return Canadian Federal Inmates” Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Volume 53, issue 4, 2011, p.377-403
This project has the goals of:
The process will be to gather information about research findings and best practice models and publish this progressively on this website until it can be formulated into an advocacy policy for MHYFVic to lobby the authorities.
Dr Allan Mawdsley,
Last updated 24/9/2018
Speak about issues that concern you such as gaps in services, things that shouldn’t have happened, or things that ought to happen but haven’t; to make a better quality of service…….
Help achieve better access to services & better co-ordination between services together we can…….
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