Aim: To measure, describe and investigate potential predictors of early developmental progress in urban Aboriginal infants.
Methods: The Gudaga study is a longitudinal birth cohort study of urban Aboriginal infants. At 12 months 134 infants were assessed using the Griffiths Mental Development Scales (GMDS). The infants' developmental progress was compared with standardised norms.
Results: Total scores for the Aboriginal infants for the GMDS were significantly lower than the standards (mean difference (MD) =−4.7, P < 0.001; 95% confidence interval (CI): −6.37, −2.96). The difference was small and not clinically significant. Infant performance on the locomotor scale was equivalent to the standards; however, their performance was significantly lower on all other subscales. Reported problem alcohol use at home was the only factor found to be negatively correlated with developmental progress (MD =−7.8, P= 0.01; 95% CI: −13.9, −1.8). The presence of three or more risk factors was also found to be associated with lower developmental scores (MD =−5.4, P= 0.01; 95% CI: −9.6, −1.3).
Conclusion: This study shows that urban Aboriginal infants are mostly developing within the normal range at 12 months. The lower scores overall compared with standards indicate that differences in development appear early in Aboriginal children and this supports the case for early intervention. The association with exposure to problem drinking and the effect of cumulative family stress may be useful in designing screening tools and interventions.