Cleft palate cohort follow-up study


Children with cleft palate and their families face various challenges in the early years of the child’s life, ranging from the stress surrounding surgery to long-term difficulties with speech and hearing. Clinically, the issues are tackled on a routine basis, with regular clinic visits and check-ups assessing the child’s dentition, hearing and general progress. Previous research has shown that some children with cleft palate may also have difficulties in early development, such as slower language learning and cognitive progression. This aspect of the child’s care and follow-up post-surgery has previously been rather neglected, despite its importance in the day to day life of the child.


Why did we do this study?

We believe that assessing a child’s behaviour, social skills and everyday conduct is no less important than monitoring their hearing and physical development. With this study we focused on cognitive (psychological and mental skills) and behavioural outcomes of children with cleft palate between the ages of two and ten years. This study will help us better understand and better support these children in their development.


What did we do?

Parents and guardians of children with cleft palate aged between two and ten years were invited to fill in a questionnaire, the well-established and frequently used Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). This questionnaire explores the following five domains, which cover 25 positive and negative attributes:

  • Emotional symptoms
  • Conduct problems
  • Hyperactivity/inattention
  • Peer relationship problems
  • Prosocial behaviour


What did we find?

The results supported previous findings, with a higher rate of adjustment difficulties present in the cleft palate cohort compared to typical development. However, we didn’t find any differences between the subgroups of the cleft palate cohort. In our study, the type of cleft didn’t influence the scores on the questionnaire. One possible explanation for this result is that we didn’t have enough children in the study to detect what might be a small, but important differences.


What does it mean for the future?

As this is the first study of its kind in the UK, it is hoped that the results of the study will trigger further research, thus enabling a greater impact on the management of children with cleft palate.



You can read more about the project on this page.


Who conducted and funded the project?

This study was conducted by Emily Thiede, Sue Fletcher-Watson and Felicity Mehendale.