Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor

Casey Laduke

Second Reader

Mark Fondacaro

Third Advisor

Kelly McWilliams


This study explores the relationship between language abilities and involvement with the justice system across the lifespan. Previous research has demonstrated a significantly higher prevalence of language impairment in juvenile justice populations, relative to the general population. These language impairments have been found across both expressive and receptive abilities, often previously undiagnosed.Further, juvenile justice involvement is a well-established predictor for later adult criminal behavior.However, no studies to date have explored the effects of language abilities and juvenile justice involvement on future outcomes, namely continued justice involvement in adulthood. The current study utilizes archival data on 95 incarcerated men to analyze the relationships among language, juvenile justice involvement, and adult justice involvement. Language abilities were hypothesized to moderate the relationship between juvenile justice involvement and adult justice involvement in this sample. Unfortunately, this hypothesis was not able to be tested due to the unexpected lack of significant relationships between adult justice involvement and both language abilities and juvenile justice involvement, and the surprising positive correlation between language abilities and juvenile justice involvement in this sample. Several limitations related to the sample, measures, statistical plan, and design of the current study may explain these unexpected findings. Given the high occurrence of language impairments in forensic populations, additional research should be conducted to further delineate the relationships among language abilities, juvenile justice involvement, and adult justice involvement to inform clinical practice and policy.



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