Objectives: To examine the prevalence, stability, and predictors of clinically significant behavior problems in 869 preterm low birth weight (LBW) infants at 3, 5, and 8 years of age.
Methods: A prospective cohort study was conducted. Clinically significant behavior problems were assessed using dichotomized total problem Child Behavior Checklist scores in LBW children at ages 3, 5, and 8 years. Baseline sociodemographic and obstetric data were collected. Maternal General Health Questionnaire performed at 40 weeks' gestation was dichotomized at a score of 12 to give a measure of maternal psychological distress. Prevalence and stability of behavior problems at ages 3, 5, and 8 were determined and potential predictors of behavior problems at age 3, 5, and 8 were examined using multiple logistic regression.
Results: Prevalence of behavior problems remained at approximately 20% at 3, 5, and 8 years. Stability of behavior problems between different ages was approximately 50%. Significant behavior problems at ages 3, 5, and 8 were predicted by maternal psychological distress at 40 weeks (odds ratio [OR]: 1.59; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.21-2.09), maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy (OR: 1.57; 95% CI: 1.20-2.04), Hispanic ethnicity (OR: 2.00; 95% CI: 1.24-3.24), and maternal age (OR: 0.97; 95% CI: 0.94-0.99).
Conclusions: This sample had double the prevalence of behavior problems expected in the general child population. These problems showed stability over time. Cigarette smoking in pregnancy, maternal psychological distress at 40 weeks' gestation, maternal age, and Hispanic ethnicity all were significant predictors of the development of behavior problems from ages 3 to 8. These findings have implications for health policies on smoking and postnatal depression.