Send to

Choose Destination
Early Hum Dev. 2009 Oct;85(10):639-45. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2009.08.061. Epub 2009 Sep 11.

Reconsidering the impact of preterm birth on language outcome.

Author information

Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Italy. A. Guarini



Since preterm birth is associated with a constellation of pre-, peri- and post-natal risk factors, we hypothesised that prematurity may continue to impact the development of linguistic abilities even up to the end of the preschool years and beyond, giving rise to an atypical developmental trajectory. The study tested this hypothesis at six years of age, investigating whether language is affected by preterm birth and how different linguistic abilities are interrelated.


Seventy monolingual Italian preterms and 34 age-matched controls were recruited. Linguistic abilities (vocabulary, grammar, and phonological awareness) as well as general cognitive developmental levels were measured.


No general cognitive delay emerged, but less developed abilities in vocabulary, grammar, and phonological awareness were found in preterms compared to fullterms. Moreover, the relations among the different linguistic competences differed across groups.


Our study shows that even without brain damage, preterm birth continues to affect linguistic development up to the end of the preschool years, and probably beyond, highlighting a continuity between pre- and peri-natal life and subsequent development, and pointing to an atypical developmental trajectory in this population compared to fullterms (different rates of development, different strategies employed, and differences in the relationships among linguistic abilities).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center