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Preterm and full-term children’s language profiles (Sansavini et al., 2021)

journal contribution
posted on 2021-07-03, 02:33 authored by Alessandra Sansavini, Mariagrazia Zuccarini, Dino Gibertoni, Arianna Bello, Maria Cristina Caselli, Luigi Corvaglia, Annalisa Guarini
Purpose: Wide interindividual variability characterizes language development in the general and at-risk populations of up to 3 years of age. We adopted a complex approach that considers multiple aspects of lexical and grammatical skills to identify language profiles in low-risk preterm and full-term children. We also investigated biological and environmental predictors and relations between language profiles and cognitive and motor skills.
Method: We enrolled 200 thirty-month-old Italian-speaking children—consisting of 100 low-risk preterm and 100 comparable full-term children. Parents filled out the Italian version of the MacArthur–Bates Communicative Development Inventories Infant and Toddler Short Forms (word comprehension, word production, and incomplete and complete sentence production), Parent Report of Children’s Abilities–Revised (cognitive score), and Early Motor Questionnaire (fine motor, gross motor, perception–action, and total motor scores) questionnaires.
Results: A latent profile analysis identified four profiles: poor (21%), with lowest receptive and expressive vocabulary and absent or limited word combination and phonological accuracy; weak (22.5%), with average receptive but limited expressive vocabulary, incomplete sentences, and absent or limited phonological accuracy; average (25%), with average receptive and expressive vocabulary, use of incomplete and complete sentences, and partial phonological accuracy; and advanced (31.5%), with highest expressive vocabulary, complete sentence production, and phonological accuracy. Lower cognitive and motor scores characterized the poor profile, and lower cognitive and perception–action scores characterized the weak profile. Having a nonworking mother and a father with lower education increased the probability of a child’s assignment to the poor profile, whereas being small for gestational age at birth increased it for the weak profile.
Conclusions: These findings suggest a need for a person-centered and cross-domain approach to identifying children with language weaknesses and implementing timely interventions. An online procedure for data collection and data-driven analyses based on multiple lexical and grammatical skills appear to be promising methodological innovations.

Supplemental Material S1. Questions of the Italian version of the MB-CDI Words and Sentences Short Form (Caselli et al., 2015) addressing the presence/absence of communicative gestures, decontextualized comprehension, verbal imitation, phonological accuracy, and symbolic play.

Supplemental Material S2. Fit Statistics of the LPA Models.

Supplemental Material S3. Estimated means, standard errors, and 95% confidence intervals of word comprehension, word production, incomplete sentences, and complete sentences across the four latent profiles.

Supplemental Material S4. Flow chart of the online investigation on low-risk preterm children at 30 months of age.

Sansavini, A., Zuccarini, M., Gibertoni, D., Bello, A., Caselli, M. C., Corvaglia, L., & Guarini, A. (2021). Language profiles and their relation to cognitive and motor skills at 30 months of age: An online investigation of low-risk preterm and full-term children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.


This work was supported by grants from (a) AlmaIdea 2017 Grant Senior, University of Bologna, “Ritardo di linguaggio nei bambini nati pretermine: screening, valutazione e intervento” (“Language delay in preterm children: Screening, assessment and intervention”), awarded to A. S. as main principal investigator, and (b) Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research MIUR PRIN 2017 (2017HRCPE4_004) “Early Markers of Language- Learning Impairment,” awarded to A. S. as principal investigator of the University of Bologna.