Premature birth can adversely affect behaviour
A new research study published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood Journal has found that children who are born a few weeks early are significantly more likely to develop behavioural or emotional problems before they start school.
by Louise-Anne Geddes, Mindful Mum, 6th December 2011
The researchers found that those born between 32 and 35 weeks’ gestation are almost twice as likely to have behavioural and emotional problems as children born at term (38 to 41 weeks). Data was analysed for 995 children who were moderately premature, and 577 children born at term.
Parents of the children involved in the study were required to complete a questionnaire which included questions about whether they ‘internalised or externalised’ their problems. They were also asked to supply information as to whether they suffered from anxiety, depression, sleep problems, attention span issues or aggressive behaviour. Overall, those children who were born slightly prematurely were almost twice as likely to externalise their behaviour and suffer from emotional problems.
The report authors, from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands concluded that:
“Our results demonstrate that moderately premature children are more likely to already have behavioural and emotional problems before they enter school. Therefore, moderately premature children could be a potential target group for the prevention of mental health problems, as behavioural and emotional problems in early childhood tend to persist in later childhood and adolescence.”
Statement and comment from Bliss
Head of Programmes at Bliss, Jane Abbott made the following comments to Mindful Mum:
“The long-term effects of preterm birth are only just beginning to be understood. It’s clearly an important area, and one that is of great concern to parents, so Bliss welcomes any research that helps parents and professionals to both understand the needs of children born preterm and to be equipped to meet those needs. Where a pre-school child is identified as having behavioural and/or emotional needs that are the result of their prematurity, appropriate support should be available. It is important that families and schools are equipped to provide this support so that each child is able to reach their potential, both in terms of school performance and in making the most of all the extra-curricular opportunities that schools offer.”
UK Press Association, Premature births ‘affect behaviour’, 6 December 2011