born before completing the typical 40 weeks of pregnancy are often underweight.
Premature infants are considered 'low birth weight' if they weigh less than two
and a half kilos. At less than a kilo and a half, they're considered 'very low
birth weight.' Many of these children end up with health issues related to
being born so small – ranging from vision loss to breathing problems. As Rose
Hoban reports, a new study found they were also at higher risk for psychiatric
State University researcher Naomi Breslau and her colleagues needed to
determine whether any psychiatric problems might be due to biology, not to
environment. So they looked at children from two disparate communities.
is inner-city children, mostly minority, black, and disadvantaged," she
explains. "And another community which was a middle-class, suburban,
study started in 1990. Breslau and her colleagues followed hundreds of children
for close to 15 years. They asked mothers and teachers of the children to
describe the kinds of problems these children were having. It turns out, the
mothers and teachers reported that the low birth weight children did tend to
have more problems than normal birth weight children.
children of low birth weight had lower scores and academic achievement in math
and reading, and lower score on cognitive abilities," Breslau says.
"We also found problems with what we call internalizing, namely
depressive, anxious kids, or externalizing, namely acting out kids. But there
were modest effects in both communities, equally."
researchers did find one significant difference between the two groups. Low
birth weight kids from disadvantaged communities were more hyperactive and had
more difficulty paying attention than low birth weight kids in more affluent
says teachers and parents need to help these low birth weight children overcome
some of their psychiatric difficulties so they can do better in the classroom.
Now she's studying how the ability to pay attention affects a child's success
research is published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.