Parents often worry if their toddlers are slow to start speaking in sentences, but a new study has found that otherwise normal 2-year-olds late to learn words aren’t more likely than their peers to have behavioral or emotional problems in their childhood and teenage years.
Scientists had suspected that some behavioral disorders could stem, at least in part, from frustration at not being able to use words to communicate -- think of a temper tantrum by a child struggling to name shapes or colors.
So to find out, Australian researchers analyzed data on children tracked from pregnancy through age 17. When the children were 2 years old, their parents were asked to select which words on a 310-word list their child spontaneously used, and to assess their child’s behavior. Of the approximately 1,400 2-year-olds included in the analysis, 10% were classified as late talkers; these children generally had more behavioral problems -- including being anxious and withdrawn, as well as being aggressive.
But when researchers surveyed behavior when the children were 5, 8, 10, 14 and 17 years old, they found no difference between the late babblers and their peers. The results were published online Monday in Pediatrics.