A Machine Learning Algorithm Predicting Infant Psychomotor Developmental Delay Using Medical and Social Determinants

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Psychomotor developmental delay in infants includes failure to acquire abilities such as sitting, walking, grasping objects and communication at the ages when most infants have acquired these abilities. Known risk factors include a large number of aspects of family environment, socioeconomic position, problems in pregnancy and birth and maternal health. It is clinically useful to be able to screen for developmental delay so that healthcare interventions can be considered. The present research used machine learning (random forest) to create an algorithm predicting psychomotor delay in 9-month-old infants using information ascertainable at birth and in early infancy. The dataset was the UK longitudinal Millennium Cohort study. In total, 53 predictors measuring socioeconomic indicators, paternal, family and social support for the mother, beliefs about good parenting, maternal health, pregnancy and birth were included in the initial algorithm. Feature reduction showed that of the 53 variables, birthweight, gestational age at birth, pre-pregnancy BMI, family income and parents’ ages had the highest feature importance scores and could alone correctly predict developmental delay with over 99% sensitivity and 100% specificity. No features measuring aspects of early infant care or environment meaningfully added to algorithm performance. The relationships between delay and some of the predictors, particularly income, were nonlinear and complex. The results suggest that the risk of psychomotor developmental delay can be identified in early infancy using machine learning, and that the best predictors are factors present prior to and at birth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-117
Number of pages12
JournalReproductive Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2023


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