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J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2003 Apr;46(2):273-87.

Parent-reported language skills in relation to otitis media during the first 3 years of life.

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University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2583, USA.


As part of a larger study of the potential impact of early-life otitis media (OM) on speech, language, cognition, and behavior, we studied the degree of association between parent-reported language scores at ages 1, 2, and 3 years and the cumulative duration of middle-ear effusion (MEE) during the first 3 years of life in a demographically diverse sample of 621 children. We estimated the cumulative percentage of days with MEE from prospective monthly observations of middle-ear status and interpolations for periods between visits. For each child, parents completed the appropriate inventory of the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories (CDI; L. Fenson et al., 1993) at ages 1, 2, and 3 years. We also evaluated the contribution of maternal education, as a proxy for socioeconomic status, to scores on the parent reports. Scores on the new CDI-III (B. Oliver et al., in press) varied positively with sociodemographic variables and were significantly correlated with scores from the CDI used when the children were younger. Unadjusted correlations between scores at ages 1 and 2 years and the percentages of days with MEE in the respective antecedent periods were statistically nonsignificant or of questionable clinical importance. The correlations between parent-reported scores at age 3 years and children's cumulative percentage of days with MEE in Years 1, 2, and 3 combined ranged from -.187 to -.248 (all p values < .001). The percentage of days with MEE and maternal education each contributed independently to scores at age 3 years. In the light of other findings from the larger study, we think it likely that the negative associations between language measures and MEE reflect confounding factors that contribute, on the one hand, to the duration of OM in young children and, on the other hand, to slow development of their language skills.

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