Language deprivation syndrome: a possible neurodevelopmental disorder with sociocultural origins

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry; Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center; Lamar Soutter Library

Publication Date


Document Type



Communication Sciences and Disorders | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychological Phenomena and Processes | Social Psychology | Social Psychology and Interaction


PURPOSE: There is a need to better understand the epidemiological relationship between language development and psychiatric symptomatology. Language development can be particularly impacted by social factors-as seen in the developmental choices made for deaf children, which can create language deprivation. A possible mental health syndrome may be present in deaf patients with severe language deprivation.

METHODS: Electronic databases were searched to identify publications focusing on language development and mental health in the deaf population. Screening of relevant publications narrowed the search results to 35 publications.

RESULTS: Although there is very limited empirical evidence, there appears to be suggestions of a mental health syndrome by clinicians working with deaf patients. Possible features include language dysfluency, fund of knowledge deficits, and disruptions in thinking, mood, and/or behavior.

CONCLUSION: The clinical specialty of deaf mental health appears to be struggling with a clinically observed phenomenon that has yet to be empirically investigated and defined within the DSM. Descriptions of patients within the clinical setting suggest a language deprivation syndrome. Language development experiences have an epidemiological relationship with psychiatric outcomes in deaf people. This requires more empirical attention and has implications for other populations with behavioral health disparities as well.


Behavioral health, Hearing loss, Language deprivation, Sign language, Social psychiatry

DOI of Published Version



Hall WC, Levin LL, Anderson ML. Language deprivation syndrome: a possible neurodevelopmental disorder with sociocultural origins. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2017 Feb 16. doi: 10.1007/s00127-017-1351-7. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 28204923. Link to article on publisher's website

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology

Related Resources

Link to article in PubMed

PubMed ID