Linguistic and motor abilities among low-birthweight 8-y-old children in the northern Finland Birth Cohort for 1985-1986 (n = 9322) were studied using parental and teacher evaluations. The parents of 8370 (90%) and teachers of 8525 (92%) children returned a mailed questionnaire concerning the children's speech, language, learning and motor abilities. Low-birthweight (LBW, < 2500 g) children (n = 279) appeared to have experienced more difficulties than normal-birthweight (NBW, > or = 2500 g) children (n = 8091). The parents evaluated the LBW boys to be the poorest in linguistic and motor skills compared with the other boys or any of the groups of girls. They are therefore presumably at risk of having problems at school, which was confirmed by the teachers' reports. There was also a clear relationship between speech/linguistic and motor disabilities.
Conclusion: Multivariate logistic regression analyses showed that the lower birthweight and some sociodemographic factors, for example the mother's age being between 20 and 24 y, having more than four children in the family, a reconstructed family, as well as hearing impairment and male gender were the most important determinants of poor speech and language abilities at 8 y of age, with and without adjustment for neonatal risk factors (asphyxia, convulsions, respiratory distress syndrome, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, patent ductus arteriosus). Smallness for gestational age was also a risk factor for poor speech and language skills. Preterm birth was associated with poor skills only after adjustment for the neonatal risk factor. The parental and teacher evaluations were concordant concerning the LBW children's outcome.