Behavioral effects of prematurity

Semin Perinatol. 1997 Jun;21(3):221-39. doi: 10.1016/s0146-0005(97)80065-1.


This report reviews the evidence for an increased incidence of behavior and social problems in infants and children born prematurely. The contribution of biological and social factors to the development of behavior problems in this population is also examined. The available evidence indicates that preterms more often than full-terms exhibit negative temperament characteristics, symptoms of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and lower levels of social competence. The risk for these problems appears to be limited to those infants with a birth weight of less than 1,500 g. Adverse social conditions also impact the expression of these problems. Preterms do not appear to be at as much risk for emotional or conduct problems or abnormal attachment to their mothers. Both the experience of a preterm birth and the characteristics of the infant can alter the perceptions and behavior of parents. Appropriate interventions should involve the child, the parents, and the school.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Affective Symptoms / etiology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / etiology
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / psychology*
  • Parenting / psychology
  • Social Behavior
  • Temperament