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Academic trajectories of very preterm born children at school age


Objectives To characterise the developmental trajectories of arithmetic, reading comprehension and spelling abilities of very preterm and full-term born children during primary school.

Design A longitudinal analysis of academic performance data of very preterm and full-term born children was performed. Academic performance was assessed in grade 1–6 of primary school using a pupil monitoring system, with 11 measurements of arithmetic and spelling performance and 7 measurements of reading comprehension. Data were analysed using mixed-effects models.

Patients A Dutch cohort of 52 very preterm children born between 2001–2003 and 58 full-term controls participated.

Results No group-by-time interactions were found for any of the academic domains, indicating no differences in progress between groups. Through the course of primary school, very preterm born children scored on average 0.53 SD lower on arithmetic (95% CI −0.71 to –0.35, p<0.001), 0.31 SD on reading comprehension (95% CI −0.48 to –0.14, p<0.001) and 0.21 SD on spelling (95% CI −0.37 to –0.05, p=0.01) compared with full-term peers.

Conclusions This is the first longitudinal study to show that the academic difficulties of very preterm born children persisted during primary school. Their progression was similar to full-term born peers, suggesting intact learning abilities. This provides opportunities for interventions to improve the academic outcomes of very preterm born children.

  • neonatology
  • neurodevelopment
  • outcomes research
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