Verbal working memory capacity in DLD (Montgomery et al., 2019)

Purpose: The storage-only deficit and joint mechanism deficit hypotheses are 2 possible explanations of the verbal working memory (vWM) storage capacity limitation of school-age children with developmental language disorder (DLD). We assessed the merits of each hypothesis in a large group of children with DLD and a group of same-age typically developing (TD) children.
Method: Participants were 117 children with DLD and 117 propensity-matched TD children 7–11 years of age. Children completed tasks indexing vWM capacity, verbal short-term storage, sustained attention, attention switching, and lexical long-term memory (LTM).
Results: For the DLD group, all of the mechanisms jointly explained 26.5% of total variance. Storage accounted for the greatest portion (13.7%), followed by controlled attention (primarily sustained attention; 6.5%) and then lexical LTM (5.6%). For the TD group, all 3 mechanisms together explained 43.9% of total variance. Storage accounted for the most variance (19.6%), followed by lexical LTM (16.0%), sustained attention (5.4%), and attention switching (3.0%). There was a significant LTM × Group interaction, in which stronger LTM scores were associated with significantly higher vWM capacity scores for the TD group as compared to the DLD group.
Conclusions: Results support a joint mechanism deficit account of the vWM capacity limitation of children with DLD. Results provide substantively new insights into the underlying factors of the vWM capacity limitation in DLD.

Supplemental Material S1. Correlations among verbal working memory capacity (vWM), verbal storage, sustained attention (SA), attention switching (AS), lexical long-term memory (LTM), and age (in months) in the typically developing children.

Supplemental Material S2. Correlations among verbal working memory capacity (vWM), verbal storage, sustained attention (SA), attention switching (AS), lexical long-term memory (LTM), and age (in months) in the children with developmental language disorder.

Supplemental Material S3. Preparation, exploratory data analysis, GLM-TD: typically developing group, GLM-DLD: developmental language disorder group, and GLM: full sample.

Montgomery, J. W., Gillam, R. B., Evans, J. L., Schwartz, S., & Fargo, J. D. (2019). A comparison of the storage-only deficit and joint mechanism deficit hypotheses of the verbal working memory storage capacity limitation of children with developmental language disorder. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 62, 3808–3825. https://doi.org/10.1044/2019_JSLHR-L-19-0071