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Randomised trial of parental support for families with very preterm children
  1. Avon Premature Infant Project
  1. Department of Child Health, St Michael’s Hospital, Bristol
  1. Professor Neil Marlow Department of Child Health, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH Email: neil.marlow{at}


AIM To test the effectiveness of a home based developmental education programme in very preterm children.

METHODS A randomised controlled trial was conducted of developmental or social support intervention, started at discharge for up to 2 years, in 309 consecutive survivors of 32 weeks gestation or less, born to mothers resident in greater Bristol between December 1990 and July 1993. Home visits were made by research nurses trained in either Portage (a developmental education programme) or in non-directional counselling (parent adviser scheme). Interventions were also provided to appropriate primary care and community support for disability. Griffiths Mental Development Scales were used to assess outcome at 2 years.

RESULTS Mean (SEM) Griffiths quotients (GQ) were: Portage 96.8 (1.6); parent adviser 95.9 (1.6); preterm control 92.9 (2.0). Despite randomisation, social variables significantly confounded these results. Using linear regression analysis, intervention was associated with improved scores: Portage: + 4.3 GQ points (95% CI 1.6 to 7.0); parent adviser: +3.4 GQ points (1.4 to 6.1). The effect of Portage was greatest in those children with birthweights <1250 g (+5.3 GQ points (0.2 to 10.4) and in those with an abnormal neonatal cerebral ultrasound scan (+7.3 GQ points (1.6 to 13.0).

CONCLUSION Primary analysis showed no developmental benefit from long term family support after preterm birth. Secondary analysis controlling for the presence of adverse social markers showed similar small advantage for both intervention groups. In the smallest infants and those with brain injuries, a structured developmental programme may offer advantage over social support intervention.

  • home based developmental education programme
  • family support
  • developmental benefit
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  • Members: Margaret Robinson, Chrissie Israel, Debbie Parker, Elaine Lawrence, Jane Smith, Sue Dolby, Wendy Ring, Glynn Russell, Josie Briscoe, Julie Berry, Ann House, Jan Sawyer, Kim Fry, Caroline Mercier, Angela Hobday, Alan Emond, Dawn Ravenhill, Neil Marlow

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