Cognitive development of children in poverty with failure to thrive: a prospective study through age 6

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2003 Jul;44(5):743-51. doi: 10.1111/1469-7610.00160.


Background: This study examined the cognitive development of children in poverty with normal growth and those with a history of failure to thrive (FTT) prospectively from infancy through age 6.

Method: Participants were 226 low-income infants with normal birthweight and no perinatal complications, congenital problems, or chronic illnesses. One hundred and twenty-eight children experienced FTT and were treated in an interdisciplinary clinic, and 98 had normal growth.

Results: Cognitive development declined in both groups to 1.0-1.5 SD below the norm. Children with FTT had lower cognitive scores than children with adequate growth through age 4, followed by recovery. By ages 5 and 6, there were no differences in cognitive scores based on the children's growth history. Using hierarchical linear modeling, child-centered home environment and small family size were related to better cognitive performance.

Conclusions: The low scores of both groups point to the need for programs promoting a child-centered home environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Failure to Thrive*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Poverty*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors