The relations of infant joint attention skills to social competence in school-age children at-risk due to prenatal cocaine exposure

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Peter Mundy - Committee Chair


Research has consistently demonstrated that infant nonverbal communication skills are predictive of cognitive and language development in both typically, at-risk, and atypically developing children. These skills, better known as joint attention (JA) skills, consist of the infant's capacity to spontaneously coordinate social attention with a partner, either for the purpose of social sharing (IJA), or for the more instrumental purpose of requesting or obtaining something (IBR), and also the infant's capacity to respond to social bids from others (RJA). More recently, these JA skills have been found to also longitudinally relate to social-emotional outcome. However, studies looking at normally developing and at-risk children have used small samples and have not examined these relations beyond the age of 36 months. This study examined whether 18-months JA skills are related to first-grade social-emotional outcome in a sample of 92 children at-risk due to prenatal cocaine exposure. The results indicated that 18-month RJA displayed an association with cognitive and language ability, and a consistent, but indirect pattern of associations with behavior outcomes, as reported by both parents and teachers. RJA also displayed a direct association with parent reports of internalizing behaviors. Finally, Hi levels of IBR displayed a significant direct association with teacher reports of school problems. Contrary to expectations, there was little evidence of an association between IJA variables and behavior outcomes in this study. Results are discussed in relation to past research as well as proposed theories on the developmental link between infant JA skills and later social competence.


Psychology, Developmental

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