New Zealand study lowers risk of behavior problems in pre-term children

14:54, July 26, 2011      

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Children born early are less likely to develop serious behavioral problems than previously thought because previous studies may have relied too much on the opinions of "sensitive" parents, according to a controversial New Zealand research.

The study by the Child Development Research Group at the University of Canterbury looked at the emotional and behavioral adjustment of children born very preterm (VPT).

It showed that by age 6 children born very preterm (less than 33 weeks) were at an increased risk of emotional and attentional problems when compared with their full term peers, said a statement from the university.

However, the findings suggested the risks may be lower than previous studies had suggested, because previous studies primarily relied on parents to provide information on their children's conditions, said lead author Samudragupta Bora.

"While parents are an important source of information about their child, it is also important to gather information from other significant people in the child's life such as their classroom teacher," said Bora.

Bora and other members of the research team, found that parents reported higher rates of emotional and attention problems in their children than teachers did.

"Having a baby born prematurely is an extremely stressful experience for parents. During their baby's stay in the neonatal unit most parents will have been alerted to the possibility of their child developing problems such as behavioral difficulties in the future due to being born too early. Therefore, very understandably, many parents of these children are very sensitive to the possibility of developmental problems," he said.

"The use of multiple informants - parents, teachers and clinical observation - to assess VPT children's well-being is important to minimize the effects of report source bias and the over or under-identification of adjustment problems in children born VPT," said Bora.

"This is controversial because it shows that reliance on parents or teachers alone can lead to data validity issues."

Although children born VPT were at higher risk of showing emotional and attentional problems, the risks of more severe problems were relatively modest, said Bora.

The findings have been published the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Source: Xinhua
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