Long-Term Stability of Language Performance in Very Preterm, Moderate-Late Preterm, and Term Children

    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid



To investigate whether children born very preterm, moderate-late preterm, and term differ in their average level and individual-difference stability in language performance over time.

Study design

Language was assessed at 5 and 20 months and 4, 6, and 8 years of age in 204 very preterm (<32 weeks' gestation), 276 moderate-late preterm (32-36 weeks' gestation), and 268 term (37-41 weeks' gestation) children from the Bavarian Longitudinal Study.


Very preterm children consistently performed worse than term-born children, and moderate-late preterm children scored in between. Language performance was stable from 5 months through 8 years in all gestation groups combined, and stability increased between each succeeding wave. Stability was stronger between 5 months and 4 years in very preterm than moderate-late preterm and term groups, but this differential stability attenuated when covariates (child nonverbal intelligence and family socioeconomic status) were controlled.


Preterm children, even moderate-late preterm, are at risk for poorer language performance than term-born children. Because individual differences in language performance are increasingly stable from 20 months to 8 years in all gestation groups, pediatricians who attend to preterm children and observe language delays should refer them to language intervention at the earliest age seen.

Related Topics

    loading  Loading Related Articles