Developmental Outcomes of Premature, Low Birth Weight, and Medically Fragile Infants

Maureen Kessenich, MA


NAINR. 2003;3(3) 

In This Article


This review brings to light the effects of prematurity and low birth weight on children's development by advancing our understanding of the long-term cognitive, academic, social-emotional, and behavioral outcomes for these children. In summary, research has shown that children born prematurely with low or extremely low birth weights 1) demonstrate higher rates of both major and minor developmental disabilities, 2) exhibit higher levels of enrollment in special education programs, 3) obtain lower scores on tests of IQ, language skills, visual-motor and visual-spatial skills, academic achievement, and executive functioning, 4) have higher rates of attention problems, 5) are more likely to repeat a grade, 6) are less likely to graduate from high school, and 7) have higher rates of internalizing and externalizing problems. However, it is important to put these findings in perspective: while premature, low birth weight infants do demonstrate poorer outcomes compared with normal full-term infants, the majority of VLBW and at least one-third to one-half of ELBW children function within normal limits from infancy through adolescence.

The print version of this article was originally certified for CE credit. For accreditation details, contact the publisher. Mosby Inc., Continuing Education and Training Development, Continuing Education Coordinator, 11830 Westline Industrial Drive, St. Louis, MO 63147 or fax (314) 453-4172


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