Educational and behavioural problems in babies of 32–35 weeks gestation
- aNeonatal Unit, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headley Way, Headington, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK, bNational Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Institute of Health Sciences, Old Road, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK
- Dr Huddy
- Accepted 16 January 2001
AIM To identify incidence of school and behaviour problems at age 7 years in children born between 32 and 35 weeks gestation, and investigate perinatal risk factors.
METHOD The study population consisted of all children born at 32–35 weeks gestation to mothers resident in Oxfordshire in l990. General practitioners, parents, and teachers were asked about health, behaviour, and education by postal questionnaire. Teachers rated children on level of function in six areas using a five point scale. They also completed the Strengths and Difficulties behaviour questionnaire. Perinatal risk factors were identified for children with poor school performance using a univariate and multivariate analysis.
RESULTS Teacher responses were obtained for 117 (66%) of the 176 children in the cohort. Twenty nine (25%) required support from a non-teaching assistant, five (4%) had required a statement of special educational needs, and three (3%) were at special school. Poor outcome was reported for 32% in writing, 31% in fine motor skills, 29% in mathematics, 19% in speaking, 21% in reading, and 12% in physical education. On the behaviour questionnaire, 19% of the cohort achieved an abnormal hyperactivity score (population norm 10%). Multivariate analysis showed perinatal variables that remained significant, independent of other variables; they were discharge from the special care baby unit > 36 weeks postconceptional age (odds ratio 4.15; 95% confidence interval 1.43 to 12.05) and male sex (odds ratio 3.88; 95% confidence interval 1.42 to 10.6).
CONCLUSION Up to a third of children born between 32 and 35 weeks gestation may have school problems. As there are larger numbers in this gestational category compared with smaller babies, this finding has implications for educational services.