Factors Influencing Language Development in Preterm Infants


  • Regina M. Cusson RNC, APRN, PhD

    professor and director, Corresponding author
    1. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program, University of Connecticut, School of Nursing, Storrs.
    Search for more papers by this author

Regina M. Cusson, RNC, APRN, PhD, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program, University of Connecticut, School of Nursing, 231 Glenbrook Rd., U-2026, Storrs, CT 06269. E-mail: regina.cusson@uconn.edu.


Objective: To examine factors influencing preterm infant language development.

Design: Longitudinal.

Setting: Infants were seen for developmental follow-up at 7, 13, and 26 months corrected age in the school of nursing.

Participants: The sample consisted of 43 mothers and their preterm infants who were below 2,000 g and 36 weeks gestation at birth. More than 88% of the sample were from lower social classes. Seventy-three percent of the sample was African American and 27% was White.

Main Outcome Measures: Developmental outcome was assessed using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, and language was assessed using the Reynell Developmental Language Scales.

Results: By 26 months corrected age, infant development was within the normal range. Expressive and receptive language was delayed an average of 3 to 5 months. Factors influencing language included length of hospital stay, birth weight, Apgar scores, infant irritability and state regulation at hospital discharge, and maternal sensitivity.

Conclusion: Language development is delayed in preterm infants. Maternal sensitivity is positively associated with enhanced infant language. Nurses need to utilize opportunities to enhance sensitive mothering to optimize infant outcomes.