Objective: To compare school performance at age 10 years in a cohort of extremely preterm children and term control subjects and to examine the impact of family composition and stability on performance.
Study design: Prospective, longitudinal follow-up from birth to 10 years of age of a regional cohort of children born at 24 to 31 weeks of gestational age and sociodemographically matched term control subjects. Family composition, extent of parental care giving, and family moves were tracked sequentially. At 10 years, academic achievement and school performance were ascertained for 118 of 125 (94%) preterm survivors and 119 of 125 (95%) term children.
Results: Term children were more likely to demonstrate optimal school outcome (appropriate grade level without additional classroom assistance) than were preterm children (odds ratio 3.4, 95% CI 1.9-6.0). Medical complications related to prematurity had little impact on school outcome. Among preterm children, optimal school outcome was significantly associated with increased parental education, child rearing by 2 parents (regardless of marital status), and stability in family composition and geographic residence over 10 years. These environmental influences were less pronounced among term control subjects.
Conclusion: Although preterm children performed less well in school than term children, family factors were stronger predictors of school performance than were perinatal complications.