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Speech-like vocalizations in infancy: an evaluation of potential risk factors[*]

  • D. Kimbrough Oller (a1), Rebecca E. Eilers (a1), Michele L. Steffens (a1), Michael P. Lynch (a2) and Richard Urbano (a1)...


This work reports longitudinal evaluation of the speech-like vocal development of infants born at risk due to prematurity or low socio-economic status (SES) and infants not subject to such risk. Twenty infants were preterm (10 of low SES) and 33 were full term (16 of low SES), and all were studied from 0;4 through 1;6. The study provides the indication that at-risk infants are not generally delayed in the ability to produce well-formed speech-like sounds as indicated in taperecorded vocal samples. At the same time, premature infants show a tendency to produce well-formed syllables less consistently than full terms after the point at which parents and laboratory personnel note the onset of the canonical babbling stage (the point after which well-formed syllables are well established in the infant vocal repertoires). Further, even though low SES infants produce well-formed speech-like structures on schedule, they show a reliably lower tendency to vocalize in general, as reflected by fewer utterances per minute in recorded samples.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Mailman Center for Child Development, P.O. Box 016820, Miami, FL 33101USA.


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This work was supported by NIH/NIDCD grant No. R01 RC00484 to D. Kimbrough Oller.



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Speech-like vocalizations in infancy: an evaluation of potential risk factors[*]

  • D. Kimbrough Oller (a1), Rebecca E. Eilers (a1), Michele L. Steffens (a1), Michael P. Lynch (a2) and Richard Urbano (a1)...


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