Background: Low birth weight is known to be associated with postnatal growth failure. It is not yet established that both conditions are determinants of psychomotor development. The study investigated whether or not low birth weight leads to delayed psychomotor development of a child, and whether it can be mitigated by adequate postnatal growth.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in 2002 in 15 rural and 11 urban communities of Sindh province, Pakistan. Assessment of 1234 children less than 3 years of age included Bayley's Scale of Infant Development II, socioeconomic questionnaire and anthropometry; WHO standards were used to calculate z-scores of height-for-age, weight-for-height and weight-for-age. The underlying study hypotheses were tested through multiple regression modelling.
Results: Out of 1219 children, 283 (23.2%) had delayed psychomotor development and 639 (52.4%) were undernourished according to the composite index of anthropometric failure. Strong negative associations with the psychomotor development index were detected between stunting and being underweight, with a larger magnitude of effect for stunting (p<0.001). The strong relationship persisted even when the analysis was restricted to non-malnourished children. The psychomotor index increased by 2.07 points with every unit increase in height-for-age z-score.
Conclusions: The relationship between low birth weight and psychomotor development appears to be mediated largely by postnatal growth and nutritional status. This association suggests that among undernourished children there is significant likelihood of a group that is developmentally delayed. It is important to emphasize developmental needs in programmes that target underprivileged children.
Keywords: Child development; Low birth weight; Nutritional status; Postnatal growth failure; Psychomotor development.
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