Objective: To investigate the prevalence and risk factors for psychiatric disorders in extremely preterm children.
Method: All babies born <26 weeks gestation in the United Kingdom and Ireland from March through December 1995 were recruited to the EPICure Study. Of 307 survivors at 11 years of age, 219 (71%) were assessed alongside 153 term-born classmates. Parents completed a structured psychiatric interview about their child, and teachers completed a corresponding questionnaire from which DSM-IV diagnoses were assigned for 219 (100%) extremely preterm children and 152 (99%) classmates. An IQ test and a physical evaluation were also administered. Longitudinal data were available for extremely preterm children.
Results: Extremely preterm children were more than three times more likely to have a psychiatric disorder than classmates (23% vs. 9%; odds ratio [OR] = 3.2; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.7, 6.2). Risk was significantly increased for: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; 11.5% vs. 2.9%; OR = 4.3; CI = 1.5 to 13.0), with increased risk for ADHD inattentive subtype (OR = 10.5; CI = 1.4 to 81.1) but not ADHD combined subtype (OR = 2.1; CI = 0.5 to 7.9); emotional disorders (9.0% vs. 2.1%; OR = 4.6; CI = 1.3 to 15.9), with increased risk for anxiety disorders (OR = 3.5; CI = 1.0 to 12.4); and autism spectrum disorders (8.0% vs. 0%; p = .000). Psychiatric disorders were significantly associated with cognitive impairment (OR = 3.5; CI = 1.8 to 6.4). Parent-reported behavioral problems at 2.5 and 6 years were independent predictors of psychiatric disorders at 11 years.
Conclusions: Extremely preterm children are at increased risk for ADHD, emotional disorders, and autism spectrum disorders at 11 years of age. The mechanism of association with psychiatric disorder may include both cognitive impairment and early traumatic experiences that have an impact on both child and parent. Early screening for cognitive and behavioral problems may identify those at greatest risk.