Executive dysfunction in poor readers born prematurely at high risk

Dev Neuropsychol. 2009;34(3):254-71. doi: 10.1080/87565640902805727.


This study examined the relation between a preterm birth and reading ability and whether children born preterm with poorer reading were more likely to show lower cognitive and executive functioning skills compared to children born at term with poor reading ability. Participants born at term (N = 97) and preterm (N = 156) were studied using the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Achievement Word Attack subtest (WJWA), Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, Comprehensive Evaluation of Language Fundamentals, and executive function tasks during the 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades. Children born prematurely were divided into low (N = 94) and high (N = 62) risk groups based on severity of neonatal complications. Growth in WJWA scores was used to cluster the sample into three reading ability groups. Contrary to predictions, children born preterm were not more likely to be in the poor reading group. Poorer reading ability was associated with lower language and cognitive scores. The effect of premature birth demonstrated fewer and weaker associations with such scores. A significant interaction between reading ability and birth status indicated that high risk prematurely born children with poor reading ability were more likely than the other groups to perform poorly on executive function tasks. These data suggest that better reading ability is associated with better neuropsychological function independent of prematurity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dyslexia / complications*
  • Dyslexia / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Language Tests
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Premature Birth / physiopathology*
  • Problem Solving / physiology*
  • Risk