Premature birth is associated with cognitive and behavior problems

Premature birth is associated with cognitive and behavior problems, report researchers at
Arkansas Children’s Hospital. According to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, children born prematurely have lower cognitive scores and increased risk for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other behavior problems by the time they enter kindergarten.  

Premature babies in this study had a 2.64-fold risk of developing ADHD compared to full-term babies. These children exhibited higher incidence of acting-out behavior and of internalizing behaviors such as depression and anxiety.

These researchers say that because premature newborns have more postnatal complications, they are often subjected to painful procedures and separated from their mothers for extended periods of time. Previous studies with animals suggest that these factors can negatively affect the immature brain, which may “partially explain cognitive and behavioral abnormalities in these children.”


Cognitive and Behavioral Outcomes of School-Age Children Who Are Born Preterm,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 2002, Volume 288, pp. 728-737.

Published in ERN November 2002 Volume 15 Number 8

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