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Extremely Premature Babies Prone to Behavior Problems Later

New study finds that children born at or before 25 weeks are significantly more likely to develop behavior problems.

Wednesday September 3rd - 9:39am

A new study from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, published in the September issue of Pediatrics, finds that children born extremely prematurely (at or before 25 weeks) are at four times higher risk of behavior problems by age six than those born full-term.

While previous studies have established a link between premature birth and future behavior issues, this study is the first to use both parent and teacher reports (previous studies used only parent reports, which can be biased) to describe behavior. Parents and teachers were asked to report on children's emotional problems, conduct, hyperactivity, peer problems, social behavior, and adaptability to school.

Results showed that 19.4 percent of the extremely pre-term children had behavior problems by age six, while just 3.4 percent of the full-term children did. However, the study authors note that later pre-term babies (born after 25 weeks but before full-term) do not have an increased risk for behavior problems.

The study authors speculate that brain development from white to gray matter, which takes place at 24 to 27 weeks' gestation, may be altered in extremely pre-term babies, potentially leading to behavior issues down the road.

Read more in Pediatrics.

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