Cognitive Functioning in Toddlerhood: The Role of Gestational Age, Attention Capacities, and Maternal Stimulation

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Why do many preterm children show delays in development? An integrated model of biological risk, children’s capacities, and maternal stimulation was investigated in relation to cognitive functioning at toddler age. Participants were 200 Dutch children (gestational age = 32–41 weeks); 51% boys, 96% Dutch nationality, 71.5% highly educated mothers. At 18 months, attention capacities were measured using eye-tracking, and maternal attention-directing behavior was observed. Cognitive functioning was measured at 24 months using the Bayley-III-NL. Cognitive functioning was directly predicted by children’s attention capacities and maternal attention-maintaining behavior. Gestational age was indirectly related to cognitive functioning through children’s attention capacities and through maternal attention-redirecting behavior. In this way, a combination of gestational age, children’s attention capacities, and maternal stimulation was associated with early cognitive development.

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