A full term birth occurs one or after the 37th week of gestation. Preterm birth occurs any time before that 37th week. When infants are born between the weeks of 34 and 36, they may be at increased risk of emotional and mental problems later in life. There has long been a connection between infants born in the latter stages of preterm gestation and emotional problems, but the study recently published in Pediatrics looks into potential causes with great depth.

Lead author Nicole Talge noted that maternal IQ and demographics did not play into the effects of preterm delivery, as it does in many other cases. "We found late-preterm babies are between two and three times more likely at age 6 to have lower IQs as well as higher levels of attention problems and symptoms of anxious, withdrawn behavior.” These findings hold up regardless of how smart mom is or how and where the family lives.

Researchers collected data from infants born in southeast Michigan between 1983 and 1985. Additional information was collected from the children at the age of six which was also used by researchers. Children were born in both urban and suburban households. Researchers noted they wanted to take all children from all backgrounds into consideration for the study.

On one side of the problem is the effect on children and families. This is the stance the lead author of this study is taking. On the other side of the debate are the causative factors that leave children at the age of six with a lower IQ than their full term counterparts.

Source: Nicole Talge, Claudia Holzman, Joseph Gardiner, Jianling Wang. Michigan State University / Pediatrics. 22 November, 2010.