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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2016 Feb;57(2):132-40. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12456. Epub 2015 Aug 19.

Attention problems in very preterm children from childhood to adulthood: the Bavarian Longitudinal Study.

Author information

Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK.
Department of Developmental Psychology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany.
Department of Neonatology, University Hospital Bonn, Bonn, Germany.
Division of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK.

Erratum in

  • Erratum. [J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2016]



Very preterm (VP; gestational age <32 weeks) and very low birth weight (VLBW; <1500 grams) is related to attention problems in childhood and adulthood. The stability of these problems into adulthood is not known.


The Bavarian Longitudinal Study is a prospective cohort study that followed 260 VP/VLBW and 229 term-born individuals from birth to adulthood. Data on attention were collected at 6, 8, and 26 years of age, using parent reports, expert behavior observations, and clinical ADHD diagnoses.


At each assessment, VP/VLBW individuals had significantly more attention problems, shorter attention span, and were more frequently diagnosed with ADHD than term-born comparisons. In both VP/VLBW and term-born individuals, overall, attention span increased and attention problems decreased from childhood to adulthood. Attention problems and attention span were more stable over time for VP/VLBW than term-born individuals. Similarly, ADHD diagnoses showed moderate stability from childhood to adulthood in VP/VLBW, but not in term-born individuals. However, when those with severe disabilities were excluded, differences between VP/VLBW and term-born individuals reduced.


Despite improvement in attention regulation from childhood to adulthood, children born very preterm remained at increased risk for attention problems in adulthood. In contrast, term-born children with clinical attention problems outgrew these by adulthood. As inattentive behavior of VP/VLBW children may be overlooked by teachers, it may be necessary to raise awareness for school intervention programs that reduce attention problems in VP/VLBW children.


ADHD; attention; longitudinal studies; low birth weight; prematurity

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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