Changes in emotional problems, hyperactivity and conduct problems in moderate to late preterm children and adolescents born between 1958 and 2002 in the United Kingdom

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This study focuses on moderate-to-late preterm (MLPT) children (i.e., born between 32 and 36 weeks of gestation) , who are known to be at increased risk of developing emotional and behavioural problems in childhood and adolescence.

Given the substantial improvements in neonatal care in recent decades, the authors hypothesised that there might have been a corresponding decline in such problems from 1950s to 2000s in MLPT children and adolescents.

Using cohort studies from the United Kingdom on children born between 1958 and 2002, they ask whether mothers are more or less likely to report emotional problems or hyperactivity in later cohorts of children, and also whether offspring are more or less likely to self-report issues in adolescence.

The results were mixed: in the most recent cohort, the MLPT group had higher mother‐reported emotional problems and hyperactivity in late childhood and adolescence than those born full term, but there were no differences in self‐reported emotional problems in adolescence.

When it came to conduct problems, those in the earliest and latest cohorts had higher scores than those born full-term, but those born in the early 1990s did not.

The findings highlight the importance of raising awareness among teachers about the association between MLPT birth and behavioural and emotional problems, the authors say.