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Dev Med Child Neurol. 2013 Sep;55(9):788-96. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.12142. Epub 2013 Mar 21.

Preterm birth and behaviour problems in infants and preschool-age children: a review of the recent literature.

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Occupational Medicine Services, Padua University Hospital, Padua, Italy.


The behaviour problems of children born preterm at school age are well known, but there have been few studies on the behaviour problems of preterm-born infants during infancy and at preschool age. Fourteen cohort studies published in PubMed and PsycINFO between 2000 and 2012 were reviewed with a focus on the type, occurrence, comorbidity, stability, prediction, perinatal, social, and relational risk factors for behaviour problems of preterm-born children in infancy (0-2y) and at preschool age (3-5y). The relational risk factor was considered in an additional four papers. Very-preterm, very-low-birthweight, and moderately-preterm children, in both age groups, show more behaviour problems than term-born comparison children even after perinatal and social risk factors and cognitive performance have been controlled for. Poor social/interactive skills, poor behavioural and emotional self-regulation, emotional difficulties, and reduced attention are the most common behaviour problems. Behaviour problems in infancy are predictive of later behaviour problems and they should be included in follow-up programmes.

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