Infants' cries may predict later language development

Babies whose cries lacked complexity at 2 months more likely to have language delays at age 2, study suggests

The level of complexity of infants' cries may help to predict which babies are at risk for language delays, new research suggests.

German researchers compared the cries of three groups of 2-month-old babies: 11 with a cleft lip and palate, 10 with cleft palate only and a control group of 50 unaffected infants.

In infants, a "simple cry melody" consists of a single rising and then falling arc, according to researchers. As children age, their cries become more complex. The ability to intentionally segment melodies by brief pauses, for example, eventually leads to syllable production.

By 2 months of age, healthy infants cries display complex melodies more than 50 % of the time.

The study

Those whose cries show less complexity are at a higher risk for poorer language development two years later.

Babies whose cries were complex less than 45 % of the time were almost five times more likely to develop a language delay at age 2.

For infants above the 45 % threshold, development of a language delay could be ruled out with an 89 % probability.

Researchers found there was a significant difference in the cries of infants with cleft lip or palate compared to babies without the birth defect.

Although a number of linguistic delays have been identified among children with orofacial clefts, researchers concluded the study's results could provide a better understanding of the earliest vocal development and offer new ways to help further improve language outcome in infants with clefts.

The study is published in the May issue of the The Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal. (HealthDay News/ May 2011)

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