Risk and protective factors for late talking: An epidemiologic investigation

Beverly Anne Collisson, Susan A. Graham, Jonathan L. Preston, M. Sarah Rose, Sheila McDonald, Suzanne Tough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Objective To identify risk and protective factors for late talking in toddlers between 24 and 30 months of age in a large community-based cohort. Study design A prospective, longitudinal pregnancy cohort of 1023 mother-infant pairs in metropolitan Calgary, Canada, were followed across 5 time points: before 25 weeks gestation, between 34-36 weeks gestation, and at 4, 12, and 24 months postpartum. Toddlers who scored ≤10th percentile on The MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories: Words and Sentences between 24 and 30 months of age were identified as late talkers. Thirty-four candidate characteristics theoretically and/or empirically linked to language development and/or language impairment were collected using survey methodology. Results The prevalence of late talking was 12.6%. Risk factors for late talking in the multivariable model included: male sex (P =.017) and a family history of late talking and/or diagnosed speech or language delay (P =.002). Toddlers were significantly less likely to be late talkers if they engaged in informal play opportunities (P =.013), were read to or shown picture books daily (P <.001), or cared for primarily in child care centers (P =.001). Conclusions Both biological and environmental factors were associated with the development of late talking. Biological factors placed toddlers at risk for late talking, and facets of the environment played a protective role. Enveloping infants and toddlers in language-rich milieus that promote opportunities for playing, reading, and sharing books daily may decrease risk for delayed early vocabulary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-174.e1
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
StatePublished - May 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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