OBJECTIVES: The goal was to examine whether indomethacin use, gender, neonatal, and sociodemographic factors predict patterns of receptive language development from 3 to 12 years of age in preterm children.

METHODS: A total of 355 children born in 1989–1992 with birth weights of 600 to 1250 g were evaluated at 3, 4.5, 6, 8, and 12 years with the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised. Hierarchical growth modeling was used to explore differences in language trajectories.

RESULTS: From 3 to 12 years, preterm children displayed catch-up gains on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised. Preterm children started with an average standardized score of 84.1 at 3 years and gained 1.2 points per year across the age period studied. Growth-curve analyses of Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised raw scores revealed an indomethacin-gender effect on initial scores at 3 years, with preterm boys assigned randomly to receive indomethacin scoring, on average, 4.2 points higher than placebo-treated boys. However, the velocity of receptive vocabulary development from 3 to 12 years did not differ for the treatment groups. Children with severe brain injury demonstrated slower gains in skills over time, compared with those who did not suffer severe brain injury. Significant differences in language trajectories were predicted by maternal education and minority status.

CONCLUSION: Although indomethacin yielded an initial benefit for preterm boys, this intervention did not alter the developmental trajectory of receptive language scores. Severe brain injury leads to long-term sequelae in language development, whereas a socioeconomically advantaged environment supports better language development among preterm children.

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