Adults born preterm score lower on performance-based tests of executive functioning (EF) than their term-born peers. These test scores do not necessarily translate to application of these skills in an everyday environment. The objective of the study was to test differences between very low birth weight (VLBW; <1500 g) adults and their term-born peers in self- and parent-rated EF and examine concordance between self- and parent-rated EF and performance-based tests of EF.
A longitudinal study of 90 VLBW adults and 93 term-born controls (aged 21–30 years) was performed. The young adults and their parents filled in the Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning–Adult Version, and the adults underwent performance-based tests of EF.
VLBW young adults and especially those born appropriate for gestational age reported fewer problems in behavioral regulation and global EF than term-born controls; however, parents of VLBW adults born small for gestational age reported more problems for their children in all EF scales than parents of the controls. Compared with their parents, VLBW young adults reported fewer problems in behavioral regulation. Adults’ ratings and their parents’ ratings correlated significantly among VLBW and control groups. In the VLBW and VLBW/small-for-gestational-age groups, parent ratings of EF were correlated to performance-based tests, whereas among term-born adults, self-reports correlated.
These findings reveal that VLBW adults may have learned to compensate in the everyday environment for their EF deficits apparent in performance-based tests. Alternatively, VLBW adults may have positively skewed views of their abilities.