Objectives: Premature and low birth weight children have a high prevalence of academic difficulties. This study examines a model comprised of cumulative risk factors that allows early identification of these difficulties.
Methods: This is a secondary analysis of data from a large cohort of premature (<37 weeks gestation) and LBW (<2500 g) children. The study subjects were 8 years of age and 494 had data available for reading achievement and 469 for mathematics. Potential predictor variables were categorized into 4 domains: sociodemographic, neonatal, maternal mental health and early childhood (ages 3 and 5). Regression analysis was used to create a model to predict reading and mathematics scores.
Results: Variables from all domains were significant in the model, predicting low achievement scores in reading (R (2) of 0.49, model p-value < .0001) and mathematics (R (2) of 0.44, model p-value < .0001). Significant risk factors for lower reading scores, were: lower maternal education and income, and Black or Hispanic race (sociodemographic); lower birth weight and male gender (neonatal); lower maternal responsivity (maternal mental health); lower intelligence, visual-motor skill and higher behavioral disturbance scores (early childhood). Lower mathematics scores were predicted by lower maternal education, income and age and Black or Hispanic race (sociodemographic); lower birth weight and higher head circumference (neonatal); lower maternal responsivity (maternal mental health); lower intelligence, visual-motor skill and higher behavioral disturbance scores (early childhood).
Conclusions: Sequential early childhood risk factors in premature and LBW children lead to a cumulative risk for academic difficulties and can be used for early identification.