Myths in development: Premature, low birthweight children at adolescence
Greenberg, Elizabeth Emily
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The major focus of the present study was to investigate the effects of prematurity, low birthweight and puberty on cognitive and social development. In particular, the interaction of physical development, behavioral style, and school achievement in a group of 12-year-old children who were born prematurely and/or with low birthweights and whose development has been followed since birth was this study's focus.;The subjects for this study were 41 12-year-old children--27 girls and 14 boys--who were part of the Critical Issues Project at the Rose F. Kennedy Center for Research in Mental Retardation and Human Development of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. All subjects were born less than 37 weeks gestational age, or weighed 2250 grams or less at birth. In addition, all mothers had to be able to communicate in English.;A battery of tests was administered to obtain current levels of cognitive and academic functioning, as well as measures of self-perception and perception of available social support. In addition, the subjects' parents and teachers answered questionnaires inquiring about the child's behavior at home and in school. To answer questions comparing performances at two different time periods, data was obtained from previous evaluations.;The data was analyzed using correlations, t-tests, and multiple regression procedures. Social support was significantly correlated with verbal, performance and full scale I.Q. The t-test analyses revealed that spelling skills declined significantly from age nine to twelve, and that receptive language improved significantly. Tests of multiple regression were non-significant, suggesting that puberty may not exert an influence at all on level of functioning or development.;These results stood in sharp contrast to the bulk of the literature concerning both long-term sequelae of preterm, low birthweight conditions, and expectations for cognitive and social development in early adolescence. This study supports the newest trend in thinking regarding effects of these risk conditions which postulates that development is not necessarily difficult for premature, low birthweight children, at puberty or earlier.