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Predicting Language Development at Age 18 Months: Data From the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study

Schjølberg, Synnve Cand.Psychol.*; Eadie, Patricia PhD*†; Zachrisson, Henrik Daae PhD*‡; Øyen, Anne-Siri PhD; Prior, Margot PhD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: June 2011 - Volume 32 - Issue 5 - p 375-383
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e31821bd1dd
Original Article

Objectives: This study investigated predictors of delayed language development at 18 months of age in a large population cohort of Norwegian toddlers.

Methods: Data were analyzed on 42,107 toddlers. Language outcome at age 18 months was measured using a standard parent report instrument, the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, communication scale. Confirmatory factor analysis was conducted on the Ages and Stages Questionnaire items. A theoretically derived set of child, family, and environmental risk factors were used to predict delayed language development at age 18 months using Generalized Estimating Equation.

Results: A number of child factors, including being a boy, low birth weight or gestational age, or a multiple birth child were all significantly associated with low scores on the language outcome at age 18 months. Maternal distress/depression and low maternal education, having older siblings, or a non-Norwegian language background also predicted low scores on the language outcome at age 18 months. Overall, estimated variance in language outcome explained by the model was 4% to 7%.

Conclusions: A combination of early neurobiological and genetic factors (e.g., male gender, birth weight, and prematurity) and concurrent family variables (e.g., maternal distress/depression) were associated with slower language development at age 18 months. This finding replicated previous research conducted on slightly older language-delayed 2 year olds but also detected the importance of factors related to family resources for the first time in this younger age group. Despite this finding, most of the variability in language performance in this cohort of 18 month olds remained unexplained by the comprehensive set of purported risk factors.

From the *Division of Mental Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway; †Department of Otolaryngology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia; ‡The Norwegian Center for Child Behavioral Development, Oslo, Norway; §Nic Waals Institute, Lovisenberg Hospital, Oslo, Norway; ∥Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.

Received October 2010; accepted March 2011.

The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study was supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Health, the Norwegian Ministry of Education, NIH/NIEHS grant N01-ES-85433, NIH/NINDS grant 1 UO1 NS 047537-01, and the Norwegian Research Council/FUGE grant 151918/S10.

Address for reprints: Synnve Schjølberg, Cand.Psychol., Division of Mental Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, PO Box 4404, Nydalen, NO-0403 Oslo; e-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.