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Low birth weight, psychiatric problems in children, linked


Washington : Low birth-weight children appear to be at higher risk for psychiatric disturbances from childhood through high school than normal birth-weight children, says a study.

Besides, low birth-weight children from urban communities may be more likely to have attention problems than suburban low birth-weight children.

“Advances in neonatal medicine have raised the survivorship of low birth-weight infants (2.5 kg or less), especially very low birth-weight infants (1.5 kg or less) and extremely low birth-weight infants (1 kg or less),” according to the report.

Previous studies have reported that low birth-weight children appear to have an increased risk of internalising, externalising and attention problems.

Kipling M. Bohnert and Naomi Breslau of Michigan State University, East Lansing, examined the long-term association between low birth-weight and psychiatric problems among 413 children from a socially disadvantaged community in Detroit and 410 children from a middle-class Detroit suburb.

Children’s psychiatric disturbances were rated by mothers and teachers at ages 6, 11 and 17. Psychiatric disturbances were separated into three categories.

They are externalising, including delinquent and aggressive behavior; internalising, including withdrawn behaviour and anxiety/depression and attention, including characteristic symptoms of ADHD such as not being able to pay attention for long or difficulty following directions.

Low birth-weight children were more likely to exhibit externalising and internalising problems than normal birth-weight children in their community.

“An increased risk of attention problems was associated with low birth-weight only in the urban community and was greater among very low birth-weight children (weighing 1.5 kg or less) than heavier low birth-weight children (weighing 1.5 kg to 2.5 kg),” the authors wrote.

“In the suburban community, there was no increased risk for attention problems associated with low birth-weight. Psychiatric outcomes of low birth-weight did not vary across ages of assessments.”

“Early interventions to improve attention skills in urban low birth-weight children might yield better outcomes later,” the authors wrote.

The report has appeared in the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.