Language Skills in Children Born Preterm (<30 Wks' Gestation) Throughout Childhood: Associations With Biological and Socioenvironmental Factors

Thi-Nhu-Ngoc Nguyen, Megan Spencer-Smith, Leona Pascoe, Karli Treyvaud, Katherine J. Lee, Deanne K. Thompson, Jeanie L.Y. Cheong, Lex W. Doyle, Peter J. Anderson

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OBJECTIVE: To examine the individual and collective contribution of biological and socioenvironmental factors associated with language function at 2, 5, 7, and 13 years in children born preterm (<30 weeks' gestation or <1250 g birth weight). METHODS: Language function was assessed as part of a prospective longitudinal study of 224 children born preterm at 2, 5, 7, and 13 years using age-appropriate tools. Language Z-scores were generated based on a contemporaneous term-born control group. A selection of biological factors (sex, small for gestational age, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, infection, and qualitatively defined brain injury) and early socioenvironmental factors at age 2 years (primary income earner employment status and type, primary caregiver education level, English as a second language, parental mental health history, parent sensitivity and facilitation, and parent-child synchrony) was chosen a priori. Associations were assessed using univariable and multivariable linear regression models applied to outcomes at each time point. RESULTS: Higher primary caregiver education level, greater parent-child synchrony, and parent sensitivity were independently associated with better language function across childhood. Socioenvironmental factors together explained an increasing percentage of the variance (9%-18%) in language function from 2 to 13 years of age. In comparison, there was little evidence for associations between biological factors and language function, even during early childhood years. CONCLUSION: This study highlights the importance of socioenvironmental factors over biological factors for language development throughout childhood. Some of these socioenvironmental factors are potentially modifiable, and parent-based interventions addressing parenting practices and education may benefit preterm children's language development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-742
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

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