Behavior Problems May Surface in Preemies by Preschool

These kids might benefit from early targeted help, researchers say

FRIDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Preschool children who were born just a few weeks too early are at increased risk for behavioral and emotional problems, new research suggests.

Researchers in the Netherlands looked at the results of behavioral and emotional development tests on about 1,500 children when they were 4 years old. Of those children, about 600 were full-term babies and nearly 1,000 were born between 32 and 35 weeks of pregnancy, which is classified as "moderately premature."

Compared with the full-term children, the moderately premature children were nearly twice as likely to have emotional and behavioral problems and nearly twice as likely to have somatic complaints, which are physical symptoms with no medical explanation.

The study was published online Dec. 6 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

"Our results demonstrate that moderately premature children are more likely to already have behavioral and emotional problems before they enter school," and these children may benefit from targeted help, the researchers wrote in a journal news release.

They noted that behavioral and emotional problems in preschool children tend to continue into later childhood and adolescence and are likely to harm their school performance and friendships.

Previous research has shown that children born very premature (under 32 weeks) have significantly more behavioral and emotional problems than children born full-term.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians outlines ways that parents can change their child's behavior.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: Archives of Disease in Childhood, news release, Dec. 5, 2011

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