May 26, 2013 | 07:24 AM (BD Time)
26 May, 2013 Sunday
Early help may improve premature behavior later
Reuters, New York :
Giving parents of newborn preemies some help right from the start may make a difference in their children's behavior by school age, a new study suggests.
Children born prematurely tend to have higher rates of behavioral problems, like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), than their peers who were born full-term.
But not much has been known about whether intervening early with parents-helping them interact better with their infants-can make a difference in preemies' behavior in the long run.
For the new study, researchers in Norway tested a program that gave parents of preemies help right away, starting in the hospital.
After parents took their babies home, they received four home visits from a nurse over three months. The nurses gave them training in things like "reading" cues from their infant and interacting with the baby through play.
"Preterm infants are often more fussy, give less eye contact and are harder to understand for parents," explained lead researcher Dr. Marianne Nordhov, of the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromso.
"They display signs of stress in a subtle way, such as color changes, 'jittery' movements, and increased respiration rate," Nordhov told Reuters Health in an email.
The idea of the program was to help parents better understand their preemies-and to give them a chance to "vent" their worries and stresses, Nordhov explained.
She and her colleagues randomly assigned parents of 146 preemies (born weighing less than 4.4 pounds) to either take part in the program or stick with standard care alone. They also recruited parents of 75 full-term infants to study for comparison. At the age of 5, Nordhov's team found, children whose parents had been in the program were showing fewer behavior problems, like inattention, aggression or withdrawn behavior.
Based on parents' reports, 29 percent of those kids scored in the "borderline" range on the behavior-problem scale.
That compared with 48 percent of premature kids whose parents had not been in the program.
Scores in the borderline range point to an increased risk for behavior problems like ADHD, Nordhov said.
In an earlier study that followed these children to age 2, the researchers had found no clear benefit.
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