Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School


Committee Member

Renee Lajiness-O’Neill, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

Jamie Lawler, PhD

Committee Member

Angela D. Staples, PhD

Committee Member

Seth Warschausky, PhD


Early identification of atypical development could lead to opportunities for earlier intervention, ultimately improving developmental outcomes. Early signs of atypical attention, social attention, and social communication development emerge in infancy, yet age at diagnosis of neurodevelopmental difficulties does not typically occur until well after the first year of life. In order to achieve this goal of early identification, sensitive and accessible tools are needed to identify infants at risk for atypical development. This study examined whether caregivers could report on emerging social attention behaviors in the first days to weeks of life with a novel, experimental scale (PediaTrac SSIP). This investigation is part of a larger prospective, longitudinal investigation with a sample of 571 caregivers of infants (48% female) who were born either full term (N = 331; 49% female) or preterm (N = 240; 46% female). The findings revealed that caregiver report of social attention behaviors measured by SSIP at the newborn (NB) and 2-month period was a significant predictor of social, symbolic, and total communication, and duration of orienting at 6 months. Maternal education was significantly negatively correlated with all caregiver report measures, and it contributed to a significant amount of variance in all models, particularly in reported communication at 6 months. Reported emerging social attention at the NB period accounted for a significant amount of variance in symbolic communication (6%) and duration of orienting (12%) at 6 months. The findings suggest that caregivers are able to report on social attentional behaviors within the first 2 months of life that may be a key predictor of attentional and communication behaviors at 6 months. Gestational age did not contribute significantly to variance in outcome in any of the models. This further suggests that maternal education is a crucial factor in examining predictors of developmental outcomes. Findings from this study support further investigation of caregiver report as a tool for understanding aspects of development, including social attention and communication, from the first days of life.