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Risk markers for poor developmental attainment in young children: results from a longitudinal national survey


Objective — To evaluate social and environmental determinants of poor developmental attainment among preschool children by means of longitudinal data from a population-based sample of Canadian children.

Design — Secondary analysis of data from cycles 1 (1994-1995) and 2 (1996-1997) of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth using a cohort design with 2-year follow-up.

Participants — A total of 4987 children aged 1 to 5 years at baseline, whose biological mother completed risk factor information and who were included in both cycles.

Main Outcome Measures — Poor developmental attainment (developing unusually slowly) was defined as scores more than 1 SD below the age-standardized mean for the Motor and Social Development Scale, revised Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, or Canadian Achievement Tests in mathematics and reading/comprehension, depending on the child's age.

Results — The prevalence of sustained poor developmental attainment after 2 years of follow-up was 4.6%. Factors found to be associated with poor developmental attainment included male sex (odds ratio [OR], 1.37; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.10-1.70), maternal depression (OR, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.25-2.15), low maternal education (OR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.19-2.08), maternal immigrant status (OR, 1.93; 95% CI, 1.38-2.71), and household low income adequacy (OR, 1.43; 95% CI, 1.11-1.83).

Conclusions — Having a mother who has symptoms of depression, has low education, or is an immigrant, and living in a household with low income adequacy increase the risk of poor developmental attainment in children aged 1 to 5 years. The notable risks associated with these factors indicate them as possible targets for screening and interventions to prevent poor developmental attainment.



To T, Guttmann A, Dick PT, Rosenfield JD, Parkin PC, Tassoudi M, Vydykhan TN, Cao H, Harris JK. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004; 158(7):643-9.

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