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An Overview of Studies on Early Development, Cognition, and Psychosocial Well-Being in Children Born After In Vitro Fertilization

Wagenaar, Karin MSc*; Huisman, Jaap PhD*; Cohen-Kettenis, Peggy T. PhD*; Adelemarre-van De Waal, Henriette MD, PhD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: June 2008 - Volume 29 - Issue 3 - p 219-230
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e318173a575
Review Article

Objective: To examine whether sufficient research has been done and definite conclusions can be drawn on the psychological outcome of children born after in vitro fertilization (IVF), a review was performed of studies on early development, cognition, and psychosocial well-being in IVF children.

Method: PubMed and PsycINFO databases were searched. All English language studies up to 2006 addressing these topics were included.

Results: After 25 years of follow-up studies on the development, school outcome, and psychosocial well-being of IVF children, it seems that mental and psychomotor development during the first year and preschool years and cognitive development at 5 years are not deviant. At 6–12 years of age, no differences were observed in cognitive and school performance compared with naturally conceived children; however, the number of studies in this age group is limited. No studies are available that evaluate cognitive aspects and school performance at secondary school age. Overall, positive parent-child relationships were reported in IVF families. In some studies, IVF mothers report more difficulties with their child's behavior only in the child's first year. With regard to the children's psychosocial well-being, no differences were found up to the age of 8 years. Although after that age, slight indications for some socioemotional and behavioral problems emerged, a large study on the onset of puberty reported that psychosocial functioning was reassuring. Data for adolescents are still lacking.

Conclusion: Psychological functioning of those born after IVF is reassuring. However, follow-up should be continued and studies should focus on specific cognitive abilities, school performance, and emotional functioning in adolescence.

From the Departments of *Medical Psychology and †Pediatric Endocrinology and Institute for Clinical and Experimental Neurosciences, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Address correspondence to: Karin Wagenaar, MSc, VU University Medical Center, Department of Medical Psychology, PO Box 7057, 1007 MB Amsterdam, the Netherlands; e-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.