Infants and toddlers with deformational plagiocephaly (DP) have been shown to score lower on developmental measures than unaffected children. To determine whether these differences persist, we examined development in 36-month-old children with and without a history of DP.
Participants included 224 children with DP and 231 children without diagnosed DP, all of who had been followed in a longitudinal study since infancy. To confirm the presence or absence of DP, pediatricians blinded to children’s case status rated 3-dimensional cranial images taken when children were 7 months old on average. The Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Third Edition (BSID-III) was administered as a measure of child development.
Children with DP scored lower on all scales of the BSID-III than children without DP. Differences were largest in cognition, language, and parent-reported adaptive behavior (adjusted differences = –2.9 to –4.4 standard score points) and smallest in motor development (adjusted difference = –2.7). Children in the control group who did not have previously diagnosed DP but who were later rated by pediatricians to have at least mild cranial deformation also scored lower on the BSID-III than unaffected controls.
Preschool-aged children with a history of DP continue to receive lower developmental scores than unaffected controls. These findings do not imply that DP causes developmental problems, but DP may nonetheless serve as a marker of developmental risk. We encourage clinicians to screen children with DP for developmental concerns to facilitate early identification and intervention.