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Pediatrics. 2004 Dec;114(6):e725-32.

Psychosocial and academic characteristics of extremely low birth weight (< or =800 g) adolescents who are free of major impairment compared with term-born control subjects.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.



To compare academic and cognitive ability, attention, attitudes, and behavior of extremely low birth weight (ELBW) adolescents who are free of major impairments at 17 years of age with term-born control subjects.


Between January 31, 1981, and February 9, 1986, 250 infants of < or =800 g were admitted for intensive care in British Columbia, 98 (39%) of whom survived to late adolescence. Teens with major sensorimotor handicaps and/or IQ <70 were excluded (n = 19). Of the 79 eligible ELBW teens, 53 (67%) were assessed at 17.3 (16.3-19.7) years (birth weight: 720 [520-800 g]; gestation: 26 [23-29] weeks). The test battery screened the following areas: cognitive (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Adults Third Edition, 3 subtests), academic (Wide Range Achievement Test-3), attention (Connors' Continuous Performance Task), self-report (Harter Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents; Job Search Attitude Inventory), and parent report (Child Behavior Check List). A comparison group of term born control subjects (n = 31) were also assessed (birth weight: 3506 [3068-4196] g; gestation: 40 [39-42] weeks) at age 17.8 (16.5-19.0) years. Multivariate analysis of variance (group x gender) was conducted for each domain (cognitive, academic, self-report, and parent report).


The ELBW group showed lower cognitive scores (vocabulary, block design, and digit symbol) and academic skills (reading and arithmetic) compared with control subjects, with no gender differences. There were no differences in attention between the 2 groups using a repetitive computer task. ELBW teens reported lower scholastic, athletic, job competence, and romantic confidence and viewed themselves as more likely to need help from others in finding a job. In the behavioral domain, parents reported their ELBW teens to display more internalizing, more externalizing, and more total problems than the control teens, with ELBW boys showing more problems. ELBW teens showed a higher percentage of clinically significant behavior problems than control subjects.


In a provincial cohort of unimpaired survivors of birth weight < or =800 g, psychosocial and educational vulnerabilities persist into late adolescence and may complicate the transition to adult life compared with their peers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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