OBJECTIVE: To assess which factors, including maternal, lifestyle, pregnancy- and delivery-related, fetal and neonatal factors adjusted for socio-economic status, are related to emotional and behavioral problems in moderately-late preterm born children (MLPs; gestational age 32.0-35.9 weeks) at 4 years of age. MLPs are at greater risk of emotional and behavioral problems than full-term born children. Especially for MLPs, knowledge about factors that increase or decrease the risk of emotional and behavioral problems is scarce.
DESIGN AND SETTING: We assessed emotional and behavioral problems in 809 MLPs between ages 41 and 49 months from the prospective community-based Longitudinal Preterm Outcome Project (LOLLIPOP), using the parent-reported Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). We collected potential risk factors from hospital records and parental questionnaires. Univariable and multiple logistic regression analyses were applied.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: (Sub)clinical CBCL scores.
RESULTS: Perinatal infection increased the risk of CBCL total problem scores with an OR 2.22 (p<0.01). Perinatal infection, maternal smoking, and male gender increased the risk of CBCL externalizing problem scores with ORs between 1.64 and 2.46 (all p<0.05). Multiple birth decreased the risk of CBCL internalizing problem scores with an OR 0.63 (p<0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: Risk factors for behavioral problems in MLPs are male gender, perinatal infection and maternal smoking, the latter two being potentially modifiable. Multiple birth is a protective factor for emotional problems in MLPs. These results suggest potential factors for targeting preventive intervention in MLPs, comprising the large majority of all preterm born children.