Motor, cognitive, and behavioural disorders in children born very preterm

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2003 Feb;45(2):97-103.


Children born preterm have been shown to exhibit poor motor function and behaviour that is associated with school failure in the presence of average intelligence. A geographically determined cohort of two-hundred and eighty preterm children (151 males, 129 females) born before 32 weeks' gestation and attending mainstream schools were examined at 7 to 8 years of age together with 210 (112 males, 98 females) age- and sex-matched control participants were tested for motor, cognitive, and behavioural problems. Tests applied were the Movement Assessment Battery for Children (MABC), Clinical Observations of Motor and Postural Skills (COMPS), Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration (VMI), Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, and Connors' Teacher Rating Scale for attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Control children scored significantly better than the preterm group on all motor, cognitive, and behavioural measures. The lowest birthweight and most preterm individuals tended to score the lowest. Motor impairment was diagnosed in 86 (30.7%) of the preterm group and 14 (6.7%) of the control children using the MABC; 97 (42.7%) and 18 (10.2%) using the COMPS; and 68 (24.3%) and 17 (8.1%) respectively using the VMI. Each test of motor function identified different children with disability, although 23 preterm children were identified as having motor disability by all three tests. Preterm children were more likely to have signs of inattention and impulsivity and have a diagnosis of ADHD. Minor motor disabilities persist in survivors of preterm birth despite improvements in care and are not confined to the smallest or most preterm infants. They may exist independently of cognitive and behavioural deficits, although they often co-exist. The condition is heterogeneous and may require more than one test to identify all children with potential learning problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / etiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Developmental Disabilities / diagnosis
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / diagnosis
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / etiology*
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Mainstreaming, Education
  • Male
  • Motor Skills Disorders / diagnosis
  • Motor Skills Disorders / etiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Severity of Illness Index