Predicting language and behavioral outcome in high-risk infants: The utility of early measures of joint attention and other nonverbal communication skills

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Peter C. Mundy, Committee Chair


Early measures of nonverbal communication skills at 12 and 15 months were used to predict later language and behavioral outcome at 2-years in a group of infants at risk due to prenatal exposure to cocaine. Results indicated stable individual differences in three types of nonverbal communication skills across the 12 to 15 month period: low level initiating joint attention, responding to social interaction, and the tendency to initiate joint attention relative to behavior regulation. Responding to joint attention and responding to social interaction were significant predictors of language development above and beyond what could be predicted by measures of initial cognitive and language development. The tendency to initiate joint attention relative to behavior regulation was positively associated with later compliant behavior and negatively associated with later aggressive behavior. Overall, findings indicate that early measures of nonverbal communication provide useful indicators of both language and social-emotional development in high risk infants.


Language, Linguistics; Psychology, Developmental; Psychology, Physiological

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