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Individual development of preschool children-prevalences and determinants of delays in Germany: a cross-sectional study in Southern Bavaria

Heribert L Stich12, Bernhard Th Baune3, Riccardo N Caniato4, Rafael T Mikolajczyk567* and Alexander Krämer2

Author affiliations

1 Department of Public Health, District of Erding, Erding, Germany

2 Department of Public Health Medicine, School of Public Health, University of Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany

3 School of Medicine, Discipline of Psychiatry, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

4 Belgian Gardens Specialist Centre, Townsville, Queensland, Australia

5 Bremen Institute for Prevention Research and Social Medicine, University of Bremen, Achterstr. 30, 28359 Bremen, Germany

6 Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany

7 Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Pediatrics 2012, 12:188  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-12-188

Published: 5 December 2012



Even minor abnormalities of early child development may have dramatic long term consequences. Accurate prevalence rates for a range of developmental impairments have been difficult to establish. Since related studies have used different methodological approaches, direct comparisons of the prevalence of developmental delays are difficult. The understanding of the key factors affecting child development, especially in preschool aged children remains limited. We used data from school entry examinations in Bavaria to measure the prevalence of developmental impairments in pre-school children beginning primary school in 1997–2009.


The developmental impairments of all school beginners in the district of Dingolfing- Landau, Bavaria were assessed using modified “Bavarian School Entry Model” examination from 1997 to 2009 (N=13,182). The children were assessed for motor, cognitive, language and psychosocial impairments using a standardised medical protocol. Prevalence rates of impairments in twelve domains of development were estimated. Using uni- and multivariable logistic regression models, association between selected factors and development delays were assessed.


The highest prevalence existed for impairments of pronunciation (13.8%) followed by fine motor impairments (12.2%), and impairments of memory and concentration (11.3%) and the lowest for impairments of rhythm of speech (3.1%). Younger children displayed more developmental delays. Male gender was strongly associated with all developmental impairments (highest risk for fine motor impairments = OR 3.22, 95% confidence interval 2.86-3.63). Preschool children with siblings (vs. children without any siblings) were at higher risk of having impairments in pronunciation (OR 1.31, 1.14-1.50). The influence of the non-German nationality was strong, with a maximum risk increase for the subareas of grammar and psychosocial development. Although children with non-German nationality had a reduced risk of disorders for the rhythm of speech and pronunciation, in all other 10 subareas their risk was increased.


In preschool children, most common were delays of pronunciation, memory and concentration. Age effects suggest that delays can spontaneously resolve, but providing support at school entry might be helpful. Boys and migrant children appear at high risk of developmental problems, which may warrant tailored intervention strategies.