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Background Sex chromosome trisomies (47,XXX, 47,XXY and 47,XYY) are known to be a risk factor for language disorder, but it is hard to predict outcomes, because many cases are identified only when problems are found. Methods We recruited children aged 5-16 years with all three types of trisomy, and divided them into a High Bias group, identified in the course of investigations for neurodevelopmental problems, and a Low Bias group, identified via prenatal screening or other medical investigations. Children from a twin sample were used to compare pattern and severity of language problems: they were subdivided according to parental concerns about language/history of speech-language therapy into a No Concerns group (N = 118) and a Language Concerns group (N = 57). Children were assessed on a psychometric battery and a standardized parent checklist. After excluding children with intellectual disability, autism or hearing problems, the sample included 28 XXX, 18 XXY and 14 XYY Low Bias cases and 7 XXX, 13 XXY and 17 XYY High Bias cases. Results Variation within each trisomy group was substantial: within the Low Bias group, overall language scores were depressed relative to normative data, but around one third had no evidence of problems. There was no effect of trisomy type, and the test profile was similar to the Language Concerns comparison group. The rate of problems was much greater in the High Bias children with trisomies. Conclusions When advising parents after discovery of a trisomy, it is important to emphasise that, though there is an increased risk of language problems, there is a very wide range of outcomes. Severe language problems are more common in those identified via genetic testing for neurodevelopmental problems but these are not characteristic of children identified on prenatal screening.

Original publication




Journal article


Wellcome Open Res

Publication Date





Klinefelter syndrome, Trisomy X, XYY syndrome, ascertainment bias, parent report, psychometric testing, variability