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Dev Med Child Neurol. 2004 Aug;46(8):508-13.

Victimization: a newly recognized outcome of prematurity.

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Quebec Rehabilitation Institute, Montréal, Canada.


Victimization by peers affects 10 to 20% of school children under the age of 12 years. Physical, verbal, and psychological victimization (being pushed, hit, called names, teased, being the target of rumours, theft, extortion) is associated with short- and long-term adjustment problems, such as peer rejection, social withdrawal, low self-esteem, anxiety, loneliness, and depression, as well as academic problems and school drop-out. Research on populations of school children (primary and secondary) has associated victimization with personal risk factors (the victim's characteristics and behaviour) and interpersonal risk factors (social relationships between peers). Studies on the social adjustment of preterm children at school age show that, even in the absence of a major motor or cognitive disability, this population has several personal risk factors associated with victimization. The objective of this study was to compare the level of victimization experienced by a group of 96 seven-year-old children born extremely preterm (EP, < 29 weeks of gestation; 49 females) against that experienced by a group of 63 term children (34 females) matched for age and sex, maternal level of education, and family socioeconomic status. The children born EP had a mean gestational age of 27.3 weeks (SD 1.2) and a mean birthweight of 1001.1g (SD 223) and normal birthweight children had a mean gestational age of 39.5 weeks (SD 1.5) and a mean birthweight of 3468.7g (SD 431). Physical and verbal victimization were assessed in a school setting by peers with individual sociometric interviews (Modified Peer Nomination Inventory). After controlling for physical growth (height and weight) at the age of 7 years, the data indicate two independent effects: males were more victimized than females, and children born preterm experienced more verbal victimization by their peers than their term classmates, even when participants with a visible motor, intellectual, or sensory disability were excluded. Several hypotheses are presented to account for the higher incidence of verbal victimization of preterm children.

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