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Grade 3 school performance among children born preterm: a population-based cohort study


Objective To study the association between prematurity and grade 3 school performance in a contemporary cohort of children.

Methods Population-based retrospective cohort study in Manitoba, Canada. Children born between 1999 and 2011 who had their grade 3 school performance data available were eligible. Preterm birth (<37 weeks) was the exposure of interest assessed using multivariable logistic regression models. Our primary outcomes were ‘needs ongoing help’ or ‘outside the range’ in at least two of each of the (1) four numeracy and (2) three reading competencies.

Results Of the 186 956 eligible children, 101 436 children (7187 preterm (gestational age, median (IQR) 35 weeks (34, 36)) and 94 249 term (40 weeks (39,40)) were included. Overall, 19% of preterm and 14% of term children had the numeracy outcome (adjusted OR (aOR) 1.38; 95% CI 1.29 to 1.47, p<0.001), while 19% and 13% had the reading outcome (aOR 1.38; 1.29 to 1.48, p<0.001). These differences showed a gestational age gradient. Gestational age (for numeracy, <28 weeks aOR 4.93 (3.45 to 7.03), 28–33 weeks 1.72 (1.50 to 1.98), 34–36 weeks 1.24 (1.15 to 1.34); for reading, <28 weeks 3.51 (2.40 to 5.14), 28–33 weeks 1.72 (1.49 to 1.98), 34–36 weeks 1.24 (1.17–1.37)), male sex, small for gestational age and maternal medical and sociodemographic factors were associated with the numeracy and reading outcomes in this cohort.

Conclusions and relevance Children born preterm had poorer performance in grade 3 numeracy and reading proficiencies than children born full term. All children born preterm, not just those born extremely preterm, should be screened for reading and numeracy performance in school and strategies implemented to address any deficits.

  • Child Development
  • Neonatology
  • Paediatrics

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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