The Open UniversitySkip to content

Executive functioning and verbal fluency in children with language difficulties

Henry, Lucy A.; Messer, David J. and Nash, Gilly (2015). Executive functioning and verbal fluency in children with language difficulties. Learning and instruction, 39 pp. 137–147.

DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


This study provided a detailed analysis of verbal fluency in children with language difficulties, and examined the relative contributions of executive functioning (executive-loaded working memory, switching, inhibition) and language ability to verbal fluency performance. Semantic and phonemic fluency, language, and executive functioning tasks were completed by 41 children with specific language impairment (SLI) and 88 children with typical development. Children with SLI showed difficulties with most aspects of verbal fluency (rates of output, errors, switching) relative to typical children. Language ability predicted nearly every aspect of phonemic fluency performance and some aspects of semantic fluency performance. The relationships between verbal fluency and executive functioning were modest: inhibition was related to error scores on the phonemic fluency task, but relationships with executive-loaded working memory and switching were absent. Educationally, these results emphasise the underlying importance of language abilities in generation tasks like verbal fluency, but point to the importance of inhibition skills for error monitoring. Interventions to improve search and generation abilities have the potential to offer broader benefits in the classroom for children with language difficulties.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2015 Elsevier Ltd.
ISSN: 0959-4752
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Executive functioning in children with specific language impairmentRES-062-23-0535ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)
Keywords: language difficulties; verbal fluency; executive functioning; specific language impairment
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
Research Group: Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)
Item ID: 47435
Depositing User: David Messer
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2016 15:41
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 10:44
Share this page:


Altmetrics from Altmetric

Citations from Dimensions

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU