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Premature Infants More Likely to Have Behavior Problems

Social and attention difficulties may hamper academic functioning at age 5

THURSDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Infants born very preterm (less than 32 weeks' gestation) or very low birth weight (less than 1,500 g) are more likely than their full-term and normal birth weight counterparts to experience social and behavioral difficulties at school age, researchers report in the November issue of the Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

Sijmen A. Reijneveld, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and colleagues analyzed Child Behavior Checklist scores to compare behavioral data on 431 very preterm/very low birth weight (VP/VLBW) children at the age of 5 years with that of 6,007 children from national samples of 5-year-old children.

Overall, 13.2 percent of children in the VP/VLBW cohort had problem scores in the clinical range, compared with 8.7 percent of the general population. Social and attention problems accounted for the widest difference in scores and were larger among children who had been diagnosed by a pediatrician with developmental problems, as well as those with severe perinatal problems.

"Our results…show that this higher rate of problems continues at school age, which may imply an increased need for additional support at school or even specialized school services," the authors conclude, recommending special attention be paid to those VP/VLBW children who had severe perinatal difficulties.

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