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 Co-Chair

Second Committee Member

Keith Scott - Committee Co-Chair

Third Committee Member

Daryl Greenfield - Committee Member

Fourth Committee Member

Anne Hocutt - Outside Committee Member


The current study examined the link between early language ability and literacy and behavioral outcomes in children prenatally exposed to cocaine. Prenatal exposure to cocaine places children at risk for language delays and early language problems are linked to both literacy and behavior problems in elementary school (Bandstra, 2002; Beitchman et al., 2001; Cantwell & Baker, 1977). Participants included 141 primarily African-American children from low SES backgrounds who were enrolled in a birth through three intervention program. Children were followed through first and second grade to evaluate the impact early language ability had on literacy and behavior in elementary school. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that after controlling for gender, treatment group, cognitive ability, and behavior at age three, receptive language at age three was a significant predictor of picture vocabulary in elementary school (F(4, 125)=6.76, p<.01, beta= .42, p<.01). Receptive language was also a significant predictor of Parent-reported prosocial behavior (F(7, 72) beta= 2.24, p<.05, beta =-.03 , p<.05). Contrary to previous findings, early language did not significantly predict parent reported problem behavior in elementary school in this high risk sample. Future studies should explore risk and resiliency in this sample, along with increasing sample size to allow for more advanced statistical analyses. Findings support the importance of early language experiences on both later literacy and behavioral outcomes for children.


Social Emotional Development; Language; At-risk Populations