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Continuity of Communication and Language Development (Määttä et al., 2016)

journal contribution
posted on 23.02.2022, 05:41 authored by Sira Määttä, Marja-Leena Laakso, Timo Ahonen, Asko Tolvanen, Jari Westerholm, Tuija Aro
Purpose: This longitudinal study examined the development of prelinguistic skills and the continuity of communication and language from the prelinguistic stage to school age.
Method: Prelinguistic communication of 427 Finnish children was followed repeatedly from 6 to 18 months of age (n = 203–322 at ages 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18 months), and its associations with language ability at ages 2;0 (n = 104), 3;0 (n = 112), 4;7 (n = 253), 5;3 (n = 102), and 7;9 (n = 236) were examined using latent growth curve modeling.
Results: Prelinguistic development across several skills emerged as a rather stable intraindividual characteristic during the first 2 years of life. Continuity from prelinguistic development to later language ability was indicated. The common level and growth of prelinguistic skills were significant predictors of language ability between ages 2;0 (years;months) and 7;9; the percentage explained varied between 10.5% and 53.3%. A slow pace of development across multiple skills, in particular, led to weaker language skills.
Conclusions: The results support (a) the idea of a developmental continuum from prelinguistic to linguistic ability and (b) the dimensional view of language ability by indicating that individual variations in early communication skills show consistency that extends beyond the toddler years. Our results also advocate developmental surveillance of early communication by emphasizing the significance of growth in predicting language development.


This research was supported in part by a grant from the Finnish National Doctoral Programme of Psychology.