Steven F. Warren, PhD

Social and Behavioral Sciences - Speech-Language-Hearing, Applied Behavioral Science
Investigator, Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies
University Distinguished Professor
Primary office:
Dole Human Development Center, 3001
The University of Kansas
1000 Sunnyside Ave., Room 3045
Lawrence, Kansas 66045-7555


I received my PhD in child and developmental psychology from the University of Kansas in 1977. From 1982 to 2000 I was a faculty member at Vanderbilt University and an Investigator at the John F. Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development. I returned to the University of Kansas in 2000 to become the Director of the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies. In 2007 I became the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies. I stepped down from that role in 2014 to teaching and research. I am presently Professor of Speech-Language-Hearing: Sciences and Disorders and an Investigator in the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies.


I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing: Sciences and Disorders


My research has focused on communication and language development in children with developmental delays and disabilities. Early in my career I contributed to the development of Milieu Communication Teaching, one of the primary approaches used in early language intervention. Much of my work has focused on the effects of different types of communication and language interventions and the manner in which children with specific disorders (e.g. Down syndrome) respond to these interventions. Over the past 20 years I have worked with colleagues to conduct several randomized clinical trials on the effects of these interventions on children's language development. I am also interested in the role of parenting in children's development. I am presently conducting a longitudinal study of parenting effects on children with fragile X syndrome. This research is presently funded by an R01 from the National Institutes of Health. Finally, early on I became involved in the development of LENA, an automatic device to collecting and analyzing large amounts of children's speech and their language enriching interactions with others in their environment. My research has been supported by grants from the National Institute of Health and the US Department of Education throughout my career. The impact of my research has been recognized by major research awards from the National Down Syndrome Congress (1999), the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (2008), and the American Psychological Association (2013).

Research Interests

  • Children, language, communication, early intervention, developmental disabilities, Down syndrome, autism, fragile X syndrome, parenting, randomized clinical trials, Milieu teaching,


I serve on a variety of SPLH Department Committees. I also participate in various committees and activities associated with the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies.

Selected Publications


Research Interests

My major research interests are in the areas of early communication and language development and intervention and the prevention of mental retardation. Over the past 25 years I have investigated the effects of a variety of different communication and language intervention strategies intended for use with children 3 years and younger with developmental delays. This research has focused on the development of intervention models (i.e. milieu language intervention, prelinguistic communication intervention) and longitudinal evaluation of these and other approaches, the development and application of an overarching theoretical model for understanding the effects of early intervention, and most recently the interaction of early intervention and specific etiologies (e.g. fragile X syndrome, Downs syndrome). For the past several years I have worked with colleagues from several other universities on the development of optimal early intervention for the infants and toddlers of high-risk teen-age mothers. My research has been continuously funded since 1977 by NICHD and by the U.S. Department of Education. Along with KU colleagues Marc Fey and Nancy Brady, I am presently conducting of a 5-year longitudinal analysis seeking to determine whether prelinguistic communication intervention generates significantly greater effects compared to later language intervention (funded by the U.S. Department of Education). With John Borkowski (Notre Dame), Judith Carta (Kansas), Susan Landry (U. of Texas Heath Sciences Center), and Craig Ramey, Sharon Ramey, and Bette Keltner (Georgetown University) I am presently engaged in a major longitudinal study of the effects of cumulative social neglect on the development of the children of teen-age mothers (funded by NICHD and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) and with the same team have initiated a major prevention study with this same population (funded by NICHD). Finally, I am the Principal Investigator of a study on the role of maternal responsively in the development of young children with fragile X syndrome. This study is part of the Fragile X Research Center (NICHD) shared by the mental retardation research centers at the University of North Carolina and the University of Kansas.

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