Information Processing in Toddlers: Continuity from Infancy and Persistence of Preterm Deficits

Intelligence. 2009 May 1;37(3):311-320. doi: 10.1016/j.intell.2009.02.002.


The present report assesses information processing in the toddler years (24 and 36 months), using a cohort of preterms (<1750 g) and full-terms initially seen in infancy. The children received a battery of tasks tapping 11 specific abilities from four domains - memory, processing speed, attention, and representational competence. The same battery had been used earlier - at 7 and 12 months. There were four main findings. (1) Preterms showed no 'catch-up,' but rather persistent deficits in immediate recognition, recall, encoding speed, and attention. (2) There was significant continuity from infancy through the toddler years for most aspects of information processing. (3) These specific abilities combined additively to account for global cognitive ability, consistent with the componential theory of intelligence. (4) Toddler information processing abilities completely mediated the relative deficits of preterms in general cognitive ability. Thus, although the toddler years have often been characterized as a period of discontinuity and transformation, these results indicate that continuity prevails for information processing abilities over the first three years of life.