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Premature babies at risk of being “forgotten children”

Children who were either very premature or underweight at birth are linked to a “socially withdrawn personality” and could become “forgotten children”, according to new research.

These babies can grow up to have a withdrawn personality, meaning they are less socially engaged (introversion), low in taking risks, poor in communication (autistic features) and easily worried (neuroticism).

School nurses should be aware of this, as children who were premature babies can become “neglected”, the lead author said.

“A lot of attention will be paid in school to children who break rules and throw things. These children don't [do that]. They may not concentrate so well. They may not make friends. They are forgotten and neglected,” lead author Prof Dieter Wolke, from the department of psychology at the University of Warwick, explained.

The study included 200 adults, now aged 26, who had been born very prematurely (32 weeks) and/or with a very low birth weight (less than 1500g) and compared them with 197 others born at term and of normal weight.