The consequences of prematurity and prenatal cocaine exposure on early neurobehavior and physical growth were examined longitudinally in a sample of 20 cocaine-exposed and 20 non-exposed preterm neonates. The magnitude of the difference in physical growth acceleration related to prenatal cocaine exposure increased with increasing birth gestational age, whereas growth rate differences in irritability decreased. In contrast, prenatal cocaine exposure, independent of prematurity, was related to reduced attention skills at 36 weeks conceptional age and increased rates of neurobehavioral change. The effects of prenatal cocaine exposure differed with respect to the degree of prematurity, depending on the nature of the outcome examined, suggesting differing windows of vulnerability for different outcome domains. The usefulness of a developmental growth perspective was demonstrated.
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© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.