Birthweight moderates the association between chronological age and infants’ abilities to respond to cues for joint attention

Isabella Stallworthy, Robin D Sifre, Angela Fenoglio, Claire Dahl, Michael K Georgieff, Jed T. Elison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Infants born preterm are more likely than ever to survive, but relatively little is known about the factors that influence their subsequent sociocognitive development. Responding to joint attention (RJA) is a pivotal skill that is likely supported by biological preparedness at birth and ex-utero social experience. The goals of this study are to evaluate the relative roles of chronological age, gestation duration, and birthweight for early RJA and examine birthweight as a potential moderator of the associations between chronological age and RJA. This study leveraged a mixed longitudinal design of infants (N = 256, obs = 421) from 8 to 16 months of chronological age. Results show that chronological age and gestation duration both explain unique variation in RJA. Further, birthweight exhibits quadratic relations with RJA. Birthweight moderates the association between chronological age and RJA; infants born heavier demonstrate faster RJA growth compared to those born smaller. Findings suggest that birth weight, an index of nutrient sufficiency in utero and biological preparedness, may constrain or afford early RJA development, consistent with the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DoHAD) hypothesis. Findings inform our understanding of the roles of biological preparedness and experience in shaping RJA and help disaggregate potential mechanisms of prematurity-related challenges to social cognitive development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere22239
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Isabella C. Stallworthy and Robin Sifre were supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Angela Fenoglio was supported by T32 MH015755 to Dante Cicchetti. This research was supported by National Institutes of Health, R01 MH104324 to JTE. We extend gratitude to all of the families who participated in this study. Portions of this work contributed to Angela Fenoglio's Doctoral Thesis.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Wiley Periodicals LLC


  • birth weight
  • gestational age
  • joint attention
  • prematurity
  • response to joint attention
  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Attention
  • Infant
  • Cognition
  • Gestational Age
  • Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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