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Keywords:

  • prematurity;
  • behaviour problems;
  • ADHD

Summary

This study explored the prevalence and stability of behaviour problems and their prediction from neonatal, medical and family context factors in a group of extremely low birthweight (ELBW) infants assessed at 5 and 8 years of age. Behaviour problems were identified on the basis of several measures: the Total Behaviour Problem Scale and the Adaptive Function Scale of the Child Behaviour Checklist, and the Hyperactivity Index and Hyperactivity Scale from the Conners’ Rating Scale. In this group of ELBW infants, the prevalence of behaviour difficulties was somewhat lower than that reported in other studies, and varied according to the measure and informant (parent vs. teacher) used. Also, there was little continuity between those children identified by their parents at 5 years of age as having behaviour problems and those children identified by parent and/or teacher report at 8 years of age. Most of the children identified with behaviour difficulties at 8 years were also reported to have academic difficulties. None of the neonatal or medical factors predicted behaviour difficulties at 8 years of age. In contrast, two family context factors, maternal level of education and family stress, were related to behaviour difficulties at 8 years. These findings indicate that ELBW and the often associated medical complications may not necessarily predispose infants to develop subsequent behaviour difficulties later on in childhood.