Low-Weight Newborn Brain Link to Mental Ills

Newborns of low birth weight who are diagnosed with certain brain injuries may be at significantly increased risk for psychiatric problems by the time they reach school age, a study shows. About one in five (22%) of an entire group of low birth weight infants studied had at least one psychiatric disorder by age 6 years, the most common being ADHD -- attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. But those diagnosed with brain injuries on ultrasound scans were at four times greater risk for having at least one psychiatric disorder by 6 years of age.

The children's general intellectual functioning was close to the national average, the report states. Along with ADHD, disorders observed with greater frequency in the brain-injured 6 year olds included separation anxiety, disruptive behavior disorder, oppositional disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bed-wetting. Boys were more likely than girls to have any disorder An estimated 6.5% of children who will become of school age in the United States in 1997 were low birth weight infants.

Archives of General Psychiatry September 1997;54:847-856

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