Objective: To compare healthy late-preterm infants with their full-term counterparts from age 4 through 15 years for numerous standard cognitive, achievement, socioemotional, and behavioral outcomes.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: National Institute of Child Health and Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, 1991-2007.
Participants: A total of 1298 children (53 born at 34-36 weeks' gestational age), and their families, observed from birth through age 15 years. None of the infants had major health problems before or immediately following birth, and all the infants were discharged from the hospital within 7 days.
Main exposure: Preterm status: children born late preterm (34-36 weeks) vs those born full term (37-41 weeks).
Main outcome measures: Eleven standard outcomes measuring cognition, achievement, social skills, and behavioral/emotional problems using the Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery-Revised and the Child Behavior Checklist, administered repeatedly through age 15 years.
Results: No consistent significant differences were found between late-preterm and full-term children for these standard measures from ages 4 to 15 years. Through age 15 years, the mean difference of most of these outcomes hovered around 0, indicating, along with small confidence intervals around these differences, that it is unlikely that healthy late-preterm infants are at any meaningful disadvantage regarding these measures.
Conclusion: Late-preterm infants born otherwise healthy seem to have no real burdens regarding cognition, achievement, behavior, and socioemotional development throughout childhood.