Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Speech Pathology Honours


School of Psychology and Social Science


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science

First Supervisor

Abigail Lewis

Second Supervisor

Dr Natalie Ciccone


Every year approximately 15 million babies are born preterm. These infants are at an increased risk of language, and other developmental delays due to their immature brain development and higher incidence of brain abnormalities. They also have poorer health outcomes in the early stages of life which may go on to hinder successful parent-infant interactions. Successful parent-infant interactions are important for infant developmental outcomes such as language, cognition and behaviour. While interventions targeting the promotion of positive interactions have been found to have positive effects in a number of populations to date, interactions involving preterm infants have not been explored. Given the vulnerability of this population to language and other developmental delays, it is of value to know whether early interventions in this area will be useful to this population as well.

Objectives: This review sets out to answer the following question – “Is early parent-based intervention targeting parent-infant interactions effective for later language development in preterm infants?”

Methods: This study is a systematic review which follows the conventions set out by the Cochrane Collaboration. Seven electronic databases were searched (CINAHL, Cochrane, ERIC, MEDLINE, PsychINFO, PubMed, & Scopus) by two independent reviewers who also assessed studies for eligibility. Eligibility criteria were: Randomised control trials (RCT) or controlled cohort studies that looked at interventions targeting parent-infant interaction in parents of preterm infants, and in which intervention occurred within the first three years of life.

Main results: Eight RCTs were identified as being eligible for the review. Primary outcomes identified within the studies included parent-infant interaction, parental mental health, and infant’s language, cognitive and behavioural outcomes. Six of the studies were included in data synthesis which showed that early intervention targeting parent-infant interactions had positive outcomes for decreasing parental stress, anxiety and depression, and better outcomes in infant’s language and cognitive development. The interventions were found to have little effect on infant’s behavioural outcomes.

Authors’ conclusions: Although the review suggests that early intervention that targets parent-infant interactions is effective in promoting later language development, none of the included studies looked specifically at this outcome. Further research is needed into interventions that specifically target language development as a result of parent-infant interactions, to provide further evidence.