Objective: To determine the extent that social variables influence cognitive development of very low birth weight (VLBW) infants across the preschool years.
Study design: Participants were VLBW (500-1250 g) children enrolled in the Caffeine for Apnea of Prematurity randomized trial between 1999 and 2004. We investigated the relationships between 4 potential social advantages: higher maternal education, higher paternal education, caregiver employment, and 2 biologic parents in the same home--and gain in cognitive scores. Cognitive assessments were performed at the corrected ages of 18 months (Mental Development Index score on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development II) and 5 years (Full Scale IQ on the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence III). Cognitive gain was computed by subtracting each individual 18-month Mental Development Index score from the corresponding Full Scale IQ at 5 years.
Results: Data were available for 1347 children. Mean (SD) cognitive scores were 90.8 (15.7) at 18 months and 98.9 (14.5) at 5 years. Multivariable regression showed that higher maternal education, higher paternal education, and caregiver employment had independent and additive effects of similar size on cognitive gain (P < .001); the mean cognitive gain between 18 months and 5 years increased by 3.6 points in the presence of each of these advantages. When all 3 were present, cognitive scores improved on average by 10.9 points compared with children without any of these advantages.
Conclusion: In VLBW children, a count of 3 social advantages strongly predicts gains in cognitive scores across the preschool years.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00182312.
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