Behavioral Problems ID'd in Moderately Preterm Children

Higher scores on all syndrome scales, internalizing, externalizing, total problems versus term-borns

THURSDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Children born moderately preterm have a higher overall occurrence of behavioral and emotional problems than term-born controls, as well as a higher occurance of specific types of such problems, according to a study published online Dec. 6 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Marieke R. Potijk, from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and colleagues compared the occurrence of behavioral and emotional problems in 995 preschool children born moderately preterm (32 to 35 weeks' gestation) and 577 children born at term (38 to 41 weeks), who were just under 4 years of age. The Child Behavior Checklist 1.5 to 5 years was used to measure behavioral and emotional problems. Total problems, seven syndrome scales, internalizing, and externalizing were assessed, with higher scores indicating worse outcomes; problems were also assessed by gender.

The investigators identified higher scores on all syndrome scales, internalizing, externalizing, and total problems among moderately preterm children versus term-born controls. For total problems, the mean difference was 4.04. Boys showed the highest prevalence rates of elevated externalizing problem scores (10.5 percent), whereas girls showed the highest prevalence of internalizing problems (9.9 percent). The risks of somatic complaints, internalizing, externalizing, and total problems were significantly increased for moderately preterm versus term-born children (odds ratios, 1.92, 2.40, 1.69, and 1.84, respectively).

"Moderate preterm birth affects all domains of behavioral and emotional problems, particularly for girls," the authors write.

The study was part of a larger cohort study on the development, growth and health of children born preterm, and was partially funded by Friesland Campina, Hero, Abbott, and Pfizer Europe.

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