Developmental Delays In Premature Babies Can Persist Through Elementary School

Children who are born prematurely have a higher chance of having developmental delays that can follow through elementary school.

No mother wants a premature baby. Every single mother, even if she is "done being pregnant" wants a big and healthy full-term baby. If babies are premies then they run the risk of having underdeveloped lungs, nervous systems or being extremely small. Every single week in the womb is very important and that is why many hospitals are now "forcing" women to wait until 39 weeks unless there is a serious complication with the mother or the baby.

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 A lot of mothers are under the impression that if they get their child out of the NICU and get their child up to a good birth weight that they are "in the clear" and that their child will go on to live a perfectly normal life. The fact of the matter is that many premature babies have a higher chance of struggling with development delays through their babyhood and even through elementary school.


Researchers from the College of Health and Medicine's Division of Psychology at the University of Tasmania have conducted a study into the potential development delays in premature children.  The study found that children who were premature can have developmental delays that can persist through elementary school including attention difficulties plus concentration and self-control issues. Professor Nenagh Kemp has watched and studied development issues with kids and helps them learn social responses. Kemp explains that most kids learn how to wait their turn such as waiting for their turn to go down the slide, by the time that they are five. However, many children have not learned this simple "socially accepted" response and it is often by children who are struggling developmentally.

Professor Kemp's team has studied a group of 140 pre-term and 80 full-term children. "We have been looking at children when they are two, when they are four, just before they start kindergarten and when they are five when they are actually at kindergarten," she said. The researchers asked the children to do some standard face-to-face assessment tasks to measure how well they could inhibit their immediate response to things. "Kemps explains, "for example, with a young child, if you get them to look at a picture of a sun or a moon when they see the moon they have to say 'day' and when they see the sun they have to say 'night. Even though kids can understand that, they find it quite difficult to inhibit their immediate response and think of the rules of the game and say the opposite one."

Kemp explained that the children who were born prematurely struggled with response tasks much more than the children who were born full term. Although the children who were born prematurely were more likely to cause evident developmental delays, children won't necessarily have to deal with this for the rest of their lives. Children are likely to grow out of this stage and catch up with the rest of the children.  It all depends on how premature the child was and how many difficulties they had when they were born.

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