Behaviour problems seen in children born premature


Children who were born extremely preterm — after only 25 weeks of pregnancy or early — are more likely to have emotional and behaviour problems than their peers who were born at full term, new research shows.

“The number of extremely preterm children with behaviour problems is also substantially higher than in very preterm (less 32 weeks) or preterm children (less than 37 weeks),” Dr. Dieter Wolke, from the University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, noted in comments to Reuters Health.

“Extremely preterm boys are more often affected across the range of problems than extremely preterm girls,” Wolke added.

As reported in the journal Paediatrics, the study groups consisted of 200 extremely preterm children born in the United Kingdom and Ireland between March and December 1995, and 148 full-term children. Both groups underwent emotional and behavioural testing at around 6 years of age.

Roughly 19 percent of extremely preterm children had behavioural problems compared with just 3.4 percent of full-term children.

Hyperactivity, seen in 30.6 percent of extremely preterm children compared with 8.8 percent of full-term children, and conduct problems, found in 12.5 and 5.4 percent, respectively, were mostly accounted for by the reduction in general thinking ability in the extremely preterm children.

However, problems with attention, peers and emotional control could not be explained by intellectual deficits. Attention problems were seen in 33.3 percent of extremely preterm children versus 6.8 percent of full-term children; peer relationship problems in 25.4 and 5.4 percent, respectively; and emotional problems in 13.5 and 4.1 percent, respectively.

“We were surprised to find that emotional problems were already more frequent in extremely preterm children at 6 years of age” and were not explained by other disabilities or a lower IQ, Wolke added.

The investigators also note that parents and teachers both indicated that for 23 percent of extremely preterm children, behaviour problems had a “considerable impact on home and school life,” compared with only 7 percent of full-term children.

Courtesy: The News, 27/9/2008

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