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Low Birth Weight Problems Persist Through School Age

Higher risk of psychiatric problems such as aggression and withdrawal seen at ages 6, 11 and 17

FRIDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Psychiatric problems related to low birth weight extend throughout the period of school attendance, according to research published in the September issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Kipling M. Bohnert and Naomi Breslau, Ph.D., of Michigan State University in East Lansing, analyzed data from low birth weight and normal birth weight children born in an urban or a suburban hospital. The researchers surveyed children's mothers and teachers at ages 6, 11 and 17 for attention, internalizing and externalizing problems. In the first assessment, 823 participated.

Low birth weight children had a modestly higher risk of externalizing and internalizing disturbances (adjusted odds ratios, 1.53 and 1.28, respectively), the researchers report. Only low birth weight children in the urban environment had elevated risk of attention problems (adjusted odds ratio, 2.78). These effects were stable throughout the study period, the report indicates.

"A major concern is raised by the threefold increased risk for attention problems in low birth weight urban children, problems that correspond to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A recent article estimated that 36.3 percent of adults with history of ADHD in childhood met criteria for current ADHD. The estimated costs in lost work are substantial. Attention problems at the start of schooling predict lower academic achievement later, controlling for key factors that contribute to academic test scores, which in turn predicts termination of schooling and curtailed educational attainment," the authors write.

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