Background Preterm infants are at increased risk for language delay. Children in low socioeconomic status environments are exposed less often to experiences that promote language development. Parental education level has been associated with language scores.
Aim To assess the influence of sociodemographic variables on the longitudinal development of language skills in a cohort of premature infants.
Method Bayley-III scales were applied in 120 preterm infants (≤ 32 weeks) at a mean corrected age of 12 and 36 months. Preterm infants were divided in 2 groups according to their GA: A (n = 59, 24–28 wks), B (n = 61, 29–32 wks). All developmental assessments (n = 240) were performed by one researcher.
Results Mean (SD) Bayley-III Language scores [composite (CSs) and Subscale: Receptive (RS), Expressive (ES)] for the 2 groups are shown in the table. Group B showed a significant increase in CSs and subscale RS, ES scores overtime while Group A scores were stable for the CS and ES. There was a significant correlation between CSs, RS, ES language scores and parental education level only for the group B. No correlation was found with other demographics or complications of prematurity.
Conclusion Our findings argue that language development depends upon the grade of prematurity. ELBW infants show lower language performance not improving overtime as compared to VLBW. The more immature the less influence of parental education level. Very early language intervention with speech therapy may be especially important for the ELBW infants.