BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE:

Previous studies suggest that former late preterm infants are at increased risk for learning and behavioral problems compared with term infants. These studies have primarily used referred clinical samples of children followed only until early school age. Our objective was to determine the cumulative incidence of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities (LD) in former late preterm versus term infants in a population-based birth cohort.

METHODS:

Subjects included all children born 1976 to 1982 in Rochester, MN who remained in the community after 5 years. This study focused on the comparison of subjects in 2 subgroups, late preterm (34 to <37 weeks) and term (37 to <42 weeks). School and medical records were available to identify individuals who met research criteria for ADHD and LD in reading, written language, and math. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to estimate the cumulative incidence of each condition by 19 years of age. Cox models were fit to evaluate the association between gestational age group and condition, after adjusting for maternal education and perinatal complications.

RESULTS:

We found no statistically significant differences in the cumulative incidence of ADHD or LD between the late preterm (N = 256) versus term (N = 4419) groups: ADHD (cumulative incidence by age 19 years, 7.7% vs 7.2%; P = .84); reading LD (14.2% vs 13.1%; P = .57); written language LD (13.5% vs 15.7%; P = .36), and math LD (16.1% vs 15.5%; P = .89).

CONCLUSIONS:

These data from a population-based birth cohort indicate that former late preterm infants have similar rates of LD and ADHD as term infants.

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