Moderately preterm infants have more emotional issues

February 1, 2012

Children born just moderately premature (between 32 and 35 weeks' gestation) are about 4 times as likely as term-born infants to demonstate behavioral and emotional problems by the age of 4 years, according to a study from the Netherlands.

Children born just moderately premature (between 32 and 35 weeks' gestation) are about 4 times as likely as term-born infants to demonstrate behavioral and emotional problems by the age of 4 years, according to a study from the Netherlands.

Dutch researchers conducted a nationwide prospective cohort study involving almost 1,000 children born moderately premature and another 577 born at term from 13 preventive healthcare centers for children.

Using the Child Behavior Checklist, the study's authors found that the children born prematurely were more likely to demonstrate general and separate types of behavioral and emotional problems compared with children born at term. Boys were more susceptible to externalizing problems, particularly attention problems; prevalence among them for elevated externalizing problems was 10.5%. Girls were more prone to internalizing problems, such as withdrawn behavior; prevalence was 9.9%. Children born early also were almost twice as likely as those born at term to have somatic complaints (odds ratio [OR], 1.92; 95% CI, 1.09-3.38). Other problems associated with moderate prematurity included emotional reactivity, anxiety/depression, withdrawn behavior, sleep problems, attention problems, and aggressive behavior.

Potijk MR, de Winter AF, Bos AF, Kerstjens JM, Reijneveld SA. Higher rates of behavioural and emotional problems at preschool age in children born moderately preterm. Arch Dis Child. 2012;97(2):112-117.