Objective: To examine factors influencing preterm infant language development.
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.