Emotional and behavioural adjustment of children born very preterm at early school age

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Abstract

Aims:

This paper describes the emotional and behavioural adjustment of children born very preterm (VPT) at early school age. Of particular interest was the degree of agreement between parents and teachers, and the extent of situational (parent or teacher) and pervasive (parent and teacher reported) adjustment problems.

Methods:

A regionally representative cohort of 104 VPT (≤33 weeks gestation) and 108 full-term (FT) children born during 1998–2000 was studied prospectively to age six. At corrected age six, child emotional and behavioural adjustment was assessed using the parent and teacher rated strengths and difficulties questionnaires.

Results:

According to parents, 6-year-old VPT children had odds of emotional, inattention/hyperactivity and peer problems that were 2.7 to 3.8 times higher than their FT peers. Similar difficulties were identified by teachers, but odds were much lower and nonsignificant (1.1–1.8). Agreement between parents and teachers was lower in the VPT than the FT group (mean alternative chance-correlated coefficient, AC1= 0.63 vs. 0.80). Examination of the extent of pervasively identified adjustment problems showed that VPT children had higher rates of emotional (6% vs. 1%) and inattention/hyperactivity problems (12% vs. 6%) than FT children.

Conclusions:

Early school age, VPT children are at increased risk of pervasive emotional problems and inattention/hyperactivity, although these risks are relatively modest. The use of multiple informants to assess VPT children's well-being is important to minimise the effects of report source bias and the over-identification of adjustment problems in children born VPT.

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