Premature babies catch up
LONDON: Most children who were born prematurely do as well at school as those who were carried to full term, according to a study.
Researchers, who followed more than 1.3 million youngsters, found parents’ fears that premature babies would struggle, were largely unfounded.
Even those born earliest were not at a significant disadvantage compared with their full-term peers, the US scientists said.
Two in three of those born as early as 23 or 24 weeks into the pregnancy were ready for kindergarten on time around the age of five, and almost 2% achieved “gifted” status.
Those born between 25 and 28 weeks performed only slightly worse than their full-term counterparts born at around 40 weeks.
And as the length of pregnancy increased after 28 weeks, the differences in test scores by the time they were between 11 and 14 became negligible.
Four years ago, a British study suggested boys and girls born early were 50% more likely to fail reading, writing and maths tests at the end of their second year at school.
Children born before 37 weeks of pregnancy were also more likely to be diagnosed as having dyslexia, deafness and other problems that class them as having special educational needs.
But the latest findings are more comprehensive, analysing babies born from 1992 to 2002 and following them into their teens. Their gestational ages ranged from 23 to 41 weeks and they later entered state schools between 1995 and 2012.
Professor David Figlio, director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, said: “While some people might be troubled that very premature infants tend to score well below their full-term peers on standardised tests, I believe the glass is more than half full. Most infants born at 23 to 24 weeks still demonstrate a high degree of cognitive functioning at the start of kindergarten and throughout school.”
But the data does not account for some of the infants’ medical issues related to premature birth or provide information about why they did well at school.
Four years ago, a much smaller study of less than 12 000 children by researchers at Bristol University said that by the age of 7, a third of those born before 37 weeks were at an “educational disadvantage” compared with those born at around 40 weeks. – Daily Mail