Early-Life Factors Raise Risks for Adult Mental Woes

Low birth weight and a history of child abuse, together, are especially harmful, study finds

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MONDAY, Feb. 5, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A combination of low birth weight and childhood abuse boosts risks for depression, social dysfunction and other psychological problems in adolescence and adulthood, new research suggests.

A team from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City, analyzed data from the Johns Hopkins Collaborative Perinatal Study. That study had followed a random sample of mothers and their children from pregnancy for more than 30 years.

The children were categorized into four groups: those with low birth weight and a history of childhood abuse; those with low birth weight alone; those with childhood abuse alone; and those with neither.

The researchers then compared the groups in a number of areas: delinquency and school-related problems in childhood/adolescence; quality of life, well-being and socioeconomic status in adulthood; and selected psychiatric and medical problems.

The findings "suggest children faced with the adversity of low birth weight and subsequent child abuse had substantially poorer outcomes than children facing either adversity alone," lead investigator Yoko Nomura, assistant professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

This study, the first to examine this link, appears in the Feb. 5 issue of the journal Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.

"The good news is [that] by offering preventative mental health services to mothers with low birth weight, and monitoring low birth weight children to provide early intervention, together we can protect such children from subsequent adversity such as abuse," study co-investigator Claude M. Chemtob, clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation has more about low birth weight.

SOURCE: Mount Sinai School of Medicine, news release, Feb. 5, 2007


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