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Parent–infant vocalisations at 12 months predict psychopathology at 7 years

Allely, Clare Sarah and Purves, David and McConnachie, Alex and Marwick, Helen Margaret and Johnson, Paul and Doolin, Orla and Puckering, Christine and Golding, Jean and Gillberg, Christopher and Wilson, Philip (2013) Parent–infant vocalisations at 12 months predict psychopathology at 7 years. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34 (3). 985–993. ISSN 0891-4222

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This study investigated the utility of adult and infant vocalisation in the prediction of child psychopathology. Families were sampled from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort. Vocalisation patterns were obtained from 180 videos (60 cases and 120 randomly selected sex-matched controls) of parent-infant interactions when infants were one year old. Cases were infants who had been subsequently diagnosed aged seven years, with at least one psychiatric diagnostic categorisation using the Development and Wellbeing Assessment. Psychopathologies included in the case group were disruptive behaviour disorders, oppositional conduct disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, pervasive development disorder, and emotional disorders. Associations between infant and parent vocalisations and later psychiatric diagnoses were investigated. Low frequencies of maternal vocalisation predicted later development of infant psychopathology. A reduction of five vocalisations per minute predicted a 44% (95%CI: 11% to 94%; p-value=0.006) increase in the odds of an infant being a case. No association was observed between infant vocalisations and overall case status. In sum, altered vocalisation frequency in mother - infant interactions at one year is a potential risk marker for later diagnosis of a range of child psychopathologies.