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Twins as a natural experiment to study the causes of mild language delay: I: Design; twin-singleton differences in language, and obstetric risks

Rutter, Michael, Thorpe, Karen J., Greenwood, Rosemary, Northstone, Kate, & Golding, Jean (2003) Twins as a natural experiment to study the causes of mild language delay: I: Design; twin-singleton differences in language, and obstetric risks. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44(3), pp. 326-241.

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Abstract

Background:Twins tend to lag behind singletons in their language development, but the causes were unknown. The possibilities suggested include obstetric complications, twin-specific features, and postnatal differences in family interaction. The present study was designed to pit these alternatives against one another as possible causal influences.

Method:The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) was used to identify the 116 twin pairs (of whom 96 participated) and 114 pairs of singletons (of whom 98 participated) whose ages were no more than 30 months apart. The McArthur Communicative Development Inventory was completed at 20 months, and the Pre-School Language Scales (PLS-3), and the McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities at 36 months. Obstetric and perinatal complications were assessed on the basis of detailed systematic parental reports, together with a systematic coded abstraction of all medical records dealing with pregnancy and the neonatal period. Family background details were assessed from parental reports, and the primary carer's verbal functioning was assessed by the Mill Hill Vocabulary Scale. Congenital anomalies were assessed using the method of Waldrop and Halverson.

Results:The language of twins was 1.7 months below that of singletons at 20 months and 3.1 months at 3 years. The verbal cognitive score of twins was about half a standard deviation lower than that of singletons. The twin–singleton differences in language level were found to be unassociated with obstetric/perinatal features as assessed from both parental reports and medical records, to birthweight or gestation, to birthweight discrepancy within the twin pair, or to congenital anomalies.

Conclusions:It is concluded that obstetric/perinatal features do not account for the slower language development in twins as compared with singletons, within a sample born after at least 33 weeks gestation.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 7700
Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: For more information or for a copy of this article contact the author @ k.thorpe@qut.edu.au
Keywords: Language development, Twins, singletons, language delay, obstetric/perinatal complications, congenital anomalies
DOI: 10.1111/1469-7610.00125
ISSN: 0021-9630
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Psychological Methodology Design and Analysis (170110)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Developmental Psychology and Ageing (170102)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PAEDIATRICS AND REPRODUCTIVE MEDICINE (111400) > Obstetrics and Gynaecology (111402)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Educational Psychology (170103)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2003 Blackwell Publishing
Copyright Statement: The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com
Deposited On: 16 May 2007
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 22:59

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