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Pediatrics. 2004 Oct;114(4):1035-40.

The lingering academic deficits of low birth weight children.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Michigan State University, College of Human Medicine, B645 West Fee Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.



To estimate the influence of low birth weight (LBW; < or =2500 g) on academic achievement in reading and mathematics in 12th grade in 2 socioeconomically and racially disparate, geographically defined communities.


Representative samples of LBW and normal birth weight (NBW) children who were born in 1983-1985 and were from the inner city of Detroit and nearby middle class suburbs were assessed longitudinally. Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery-Revised standardized tests of reading and mathematics were used at ages 11 and 17 (n = 773). Multiple regression analysis applying generalized estimating equations was used to assess the independent effects of LBW on test scores.


Compared with NBW children, LBW children manifested deficits of 3 to 5 points in age-standardized tests of academic achievement at age 17 that had persisted with little change from age 11. LBW-related deficits were similar in urban and suburban communities and were independent of family factors. At age 17, LBW children were approximately 50% more likely than NBW children to score below the standardized population mean in both reading and mathematics. The LBW-related deficits in academic achievement in adolescence were largely accounted for by LBW-related deficits in general cognitive abilities, measured by IQ tests at age 6.


Interventions to address the lingering effects of LBW on the acquisition of core academic skills during the school years should focus on preschool LBW children in both inner city and suburban communities.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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