The influence of biological, social, and developmental factors on language acquisition in pre-term born children

Int J Speech Lang Pathol. 2010 Dec;12(6):461-71. doi: 10.3109/17549507.2011.486445. Epub 2010 Jun 29.


The objective of this study is to evaluate language outcome in pre-term children, considering multiple factors. The hypothesis is that early communicative capacity (pre-verbal communicative utterances) is affected mainly by biological (prematurity, birth weight, and gender) and social factors (maternal education), while more advanced linguistic abilities (i.e., combinatorial and syntactic abilities) are mostly influenced by previously acquired communicative abilities. Eighteen monolingual Italian pre-term children (birth weight between 750 and 1600 grams, gestational age <37 weeks; 13 males and five females) were compared with a control group of 18 age-matched full-term children (8 males, 10 females). The longitudinal design comprised motor and cognitive assessment at 14 and 36 months, and communicative evaluation by direct observation at 14, 24, 30, and 36 months, and by indirect observation at 24 and 30 months. The main results evidenced were delayed development in pre-term compared to full-term children, particularly after 24 months of age; intra-individual differences in the pre-term group; and a strong effect of prematurity on communicative ability at 14 and 24 months; however, more advanced communicative developmental stages were influenced both by prematurity and by previously acquired linguistic skills.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child Language
  • Cognition
  • Communication
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Extremely Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Italy
  • Language Development Disorders / etiology*
  • Language Development Disorders / psychology
  • Language Development*
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Motor Skills
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Vocabulary