Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Marygrace Yale Kaiser - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Daniel Messinger - Committee Member

Third Committee Member

Marjorie Montague - Outside Committee Member


Responding to Joint Attention (RJA) involves an infant's ability to follow a gaze or point by a partner. Prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE), which places a child in danger of numerous risks, has been accepted as having subtle effects on developmental outcomes such as social competence and associated socio-emotional outcomes. The current study looked at a sample of 166 children prenatally exposed to cocaine who were attending an early intervention program. The study established group and individual trajectories of responding to joint attention from 12, 15, and 18 months of age. Hierarchical modeling identified two groups, a delay group and an average group, while individual trajectories identified a linear pattern of growth of RJA. Both individual and group trajectories indicated that children with higher RJA from 12 to 18 months demonstrated better social competence at three years of age and first grade. The delay and average group showed significant differences on later social competence measures, but not problem behaviors, such that RJA, a positive behavior, may connect more closely with later positive behaviors than with behavior problems. RJA may therefore be useful in a preventative intervention targeted at enhancing positive social behaviors and as an important and simple screening tool for possible delay early in a child's life, helping to deliver early intervention services in a targeted and effective manner.


Hierarchical Linear Modeling; Growth Trajectories