Persisting Behavior Problems in Extremely Low Birth Weight Adolescents

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To describe behavior problems in extremely low birth weight (ELBW, <1000 g) adolescents born 1992 through 1995 based on parent ratings and adolescent self-ratings at age 14 years and to examine changes in parent ratings from ages 8–14.


Parent ratings of behavior problems and adolescent self-ratings were obtained for 169 ELBW adolescents (mean birth weight 815 g, gestational age 26 wk) and 115 normal birth weight (NBW) controls at 14 years. Parent ratings of behavior at age 8 years were also available. Behavior outcomes were assessed using symptom severity scores and rates of scores above DSM-IV symptom cutoffs for clinical disorder.


The ELBW group had higher symptom severity scores on parent ratings at age 14 years than NBW controls for inattentive attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and social problems (all p's < .01). Rates of parent ratings meeting DSM-IV symptom criteria for inattentive ADHD were also higher for the ELBW group (12% vs 1%, p < .01). In contrast, the ELBW group had lower symptom severity scores on self-ratings than controls for several scales. Group differences in parent ratings decreased over time for ADHD, especially among females, but were stable for anxiety and social problems.


Extremely low birth weight adolescents continue to have behavior problems similar to those evident at a younger age, but these problems are not evident in behavioral self-ratings. The findings suggest that parent ratings provide contrasting perspectives on behavior problems in ELBW youth and support the need to identify and treat these problems early in childhood.

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