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Action Imitation at 1½ Years Is Better Than Pointing Gesture in Predicting Late Development of Language Production at 3 Years of Age


  • The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study is supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Health, NIH/NIEHS (NO-ES-75558), NIH/NINDS (1 UO1 NS 047537-01), and the Norwegian Research Council/FUGE (151918/S10). This study was supported by EXTRA funds from the Norwegian Foundation for Health and Rehabilitation (grant 2008/0003); it forms part of the first author's doctoral dissertation to be submitted at the University of Oslo.We thank the Language and Learning Group at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health; Anne Siri Øyen, Nina Stenberg, Heidi Aase, and Annett Kvaale for help with the content validity of the items; Patricia Eadie, Karina Corbett, and Anne Siri Øyen for commenting on the paper.

  • [Correction added on 10/19/2012, after first online publication 10/3/2012: The response categories of NVCC and ASQ items on p. 5 have been corrected to (yes or yes, usually / sometimes or rarely / not yet). Moreover, the references (Fenson et al., 1994; Fenson et al., 2007) have been corrected on p. 9 and 10.]

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Imac M. Zambrana, The Norwegian Center for Child Behavioral Development, PO Box 7053, Majorstuen, 0306 Oslo, Norway. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study examined whether poor pointing gestures and imitative actions at 18 months of age uniquely predicted late language production at 36 months, beyond the role of poor language at 18 months of age. Data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study were utilized. Maternal reports of the children's nonverbal skills and language were gathered for 42,517 children aged 18 months and for 28,107 of the same children at 36 months. Panel analysis of latent variables revealed that imitative actions, language comprehension, and language production uniquely contributed to predicting late development of language production, while pointing gestures did not. It is suggested that the results can be explained by underlying symbolic representational skills at 18 months.