Maternal estimates of developmental age in preschool children

J Pediatr. 1994 Jul;125(1):S18-24. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(94)70171-7.


Objective: To investigate the accuracy of maternal estimates of developmental age in preschool children with suspected developmental delay.

Methods: In a sample of 139 preschool children, aged 5 to 60 months, mothers were asked before evaluation to estimate the developmental age of their child. Maternal estimates were converted to a developmental quotient (DQ) and compared with results from standardized tests of cognitive functioning, adaptive abilities, expressive and receptive language, and visual-motor skills.

Results: A high correlation was found (r = 0.82; p < 0.0001) between maternal-estimate DQ and actual DQ (mean of test scores). Most mothers estimated within 15% of their child's actual functioning, and 84% of mothers estimated within +/- 5 months of actual functioning. Multiple regression found no factors that would identify mothers who were more or less accurate in estimating developmental age. Maternal-estimate DQ was sensitive (83%) and specific (83%) for mental retardation.

Conclusion: Maternal estimates provide an accurate measure of developmental functioning and could be successfully incorporated into routine developmental surveillance of preschool children.

MeSH terms

  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developmental Disabilities / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mothers*
  • Population Surveillance / methods