We tested the hypothesis that prematurity acts through its association with neuromotor and intellectual functioning to explain behavior problems at school age. Sixty-one extremely preterm (EP) very low birth weight (VLBW) children (< 29 wk and < 1500 g) born in 1987-1990 and 44 normal birth weight children (NBW) (> 37 wk and > 2500 g) were matched for age, sex, and socioeconomic status (SES). Mediator variables were evaluated at a hospital at 5 years and 9 months. Behaviors were evaluated at school at 7 years by peers, teachers, and parents. When compared with NBW children, EP/VLBW children had poorer IQ and neuromotor development. At school, EP/VLBW children were evaluated by peers as more sensitive/isolated, and by teachers and parents as more inattentive and hyperactive than NBW. When mediators were introduced, the previously significant relation between prematurity and behavior problems disappeared. Hyperactive and inattentive behaviors were explained by a specific working memory factor for the latter, and by a general intellectual delay for the former, whereas sensitive/isolated behaviors were best explained by neuromotor delays. Inattentive behaviors were also related to family adversity. At school age, extreme prematurity had thus an indirect effect on behaviors via specific and nonspecific intellectual and neuromotor delays.
Research Center, Hôpital Ste-Justine, Montreal (NADEAU)
Department of Psychology, Laval University, Quebec, Canada (BOIVIN, TESSIER)
Research Center, Hôpital Ste-Justine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (LEFEBVRE, ROBAEY)
Address for reprints: Line Nadeau, Ph.D., Hôpital Ste-Justine, Laboratoire de Psychophysiologie et neuropsychiatrie, Centre de Recherche, 3175 Chemin de la Côte Ste-Catherine, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3T 1C5; e-mail: email@example.com; fax: 418-656-3646.