Antenatal determinants of early childhood talking delay and behavioural difficulties



Publication Details

D'Souza, S., Crawford, C. N., Buckley, J., Underwood, L., Peterson, E. R., Bird, A., Morton, S. M.B. & Waldie, K. E. (2019). Antenatal determinants of early childhood talking delay and behavioural difficulties. Infant Behavior and Development, 57 101388-1-101388-14.


The determinants of talking delay alone or its comorbidity with behavioural difficulties was examined in 5768 two-year-old members of the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study. Using the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development inventories and the total difficulties score from the preschool Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, a composite measure was created so that children were categorised as showing no language or behavioural concerns (72.5%), behavioural only difficulties (6.1%), language only difficulties (18.1%), and comorbid language and behavioural difficulties (3.3%). Analyses revealed that antenatal factors such as maternal perceived stress, inadequate folate intake, vitamin intake, alcohol consumption during the first trimester and maternal smoking all had a significant effect on child outcomes. In particular, low multivitamin intake and perceived stress during pregnancy were associated with coexisting language and behavioural difficulties. These findings support international research in showing that maternal factors during pregnancy are associated with developmental outcomes in the early childhood period, and demonstrate these associations within a NZ context. Interventions which address maternal stress management and health behaviours during pregnancy could be beneficial to offspring development.

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