Objective: To analyze language skills in children born at 24-34 weeks of gestation at 2 years of corrected age and the association between language and other developmental domains.
Study design: We included 2424 children (64% of the eligible population) from the French population-based EPIPAGE 2 cohort study. At 2 years’ corrected age, children were screened with the French short version of the MacArthur-Bates Communication Developmental Inventories and the Ages and Stages Questionnaire completed by parents.
Results: Small lexicon size, <10th percentile of the calibration sample (ie, 28 words in a list of 100) was observed in 135 of 300 children (45%) born at 23-26 weeks, 484 of 1513 (32%) born at 27-31 weeks, and 165 of 611 (27%) born at 32-34 weeks of gestation. Small lexicon size was associated with 2 other language measures: word combination use and the Ages and Stages Questionnaire communication domain score. It was also significantly associated with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire score below the threshold in the other developmental domains (gross motor function, fine motor function, problem solving skills, and personal social skills) for all gestational age groups, after adjustment for potential confounders. Overall, 46% of children with a small lexicon size had ≥1 of these domains below the threshold, as compared with only 22% of children without a small lexicon size.
Conclusions: These results highlight the usefulness of the MacArthur-Bates Communication Developmental Inventories in preterm children, especially those who do not participate in specialized follow-up. A small lexicon size points to developmental difficulties in language and increased risk for other developmental and neurobehavioral functions.