OBJECTIVES: Moderately and late preterm children (MLPs, 32.0-36.9 weeks gestational age) have a greater risk of poorer growth. This seems to be associated with poorer neuropsychological functioning. Evidence is limited on whether this also holds for emotional and behavioral (EB) problems. Therefore, we assessed whether longitudinal growth from birth until age 7 was associated with EB problems at age 7 in MLPs.
STUDY DESIGN: This study was part of the Longitudinal Preterm Outcome Project, a prospective cohort study. Data on growth (height, weight, head circumference, and extent of catch-up growth) were obtained from assessments from birth until age 7. EB problems were assessed at age 7 with the Child Behavior Checklist. We assessed whether growth and EB problems were associated using logistic regression analyses, adjusting for multiple birth, parity, and socioeconomic status.
RESULTS: We included 248 MLPs. Median gestational age was 34 weeks (interquartile range: 33-35 weeks). Mean birth weight was 2.2 kg (standard deviation: 0.5 kg). Postnatal growth measures were below the Dutch reference norm. EB problems were more prevalent in MLPs than in the general Dutch population. Generally, we found no associations between growth and EB problems; odds ratios ranged from 0.20 to 2.72.
CONCLUSIONS: In MLPs, postnatal growth from birth until age 7 was not associated with EB problems at age 7. Poorer growth thus seems to relate to neuropsychological problems, but not to EB problems. This suggests that the etiologies of these problems differ at least partially.