This research tested the hypothesis that as children's language development matures, factor-analytic structural changes occur that are associated with measurements of fine-grained auditory discrimination, receptive vocabulary, receptive language, speech production, and three performance subtests of the WISC-R. Among 6- to 7-year-old children, the percent of total variance attributed to the factor defined by fine-grained auditory discrimination measures was approximately 43% for children who were intellectually impaired (Experiment 2), 27% for youngsters who had language-learning problems, and 16% for regularly progressing children (Experiment 1). The WISC-R subtest scores, generally, did not load on the auditory discrimination factor. The difference in variance explained by the auditory discrimination factor was interpreted as representing greater relative importance of auditory discrimination among children with less-well-developed language competencies than among children with more mature language skills. This interpretation was strengthened by the finding of no distinct auditory discrimination factor for 8- to 11-year-old children who were either regularly progressing or language-disabled even though the language/speech factor at this age closely resembled that found among younger children. Results were consonant with Ackerman's (1987) model, suggesting that task-specific variance associated with tasks that remain resource-dependent may diminish after practice and experience.
KEY WORDS: auditory discrimination, factor analyses, language-learning problems, young children, developmental
Submitted on March 30, 1992
Accepted on September 21, 1992
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