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Behavioral Problems in Children Born Prematurely

author image Sarah Davis
Sarah Davis has worked in nutrition in the clinical setting and currently works as a licensed Realtor in California. Davis began writing about nutrition in 2006 and had two chapters published in "The Grocery Store Diet" book in 2009. She enjoys writing about nutrition and real estate and managing her website, She earned her bachelor's degree in nutrition from San Diego State University.
Behavioral Problems in Children Born Prematurely
Premature children may have a harder time behaviorally in school. Photo Credit: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Babies born prematurely, usually before 36 weeks of pregnancy, do not have enough time to fully develop either their bodies or their brains while in the mother’s womb. This can result in both short-term and long-lasting health problems. While some premature babies end up perfectly fine, others have mild to severe behavior problems as they go into childhood. These behavioral problems can be treated and managed, but it is important to catch them early.

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ADHD, which stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a condition in which a person is sometimes hyperactive and has difficulty focusing and doing one task at a time. The website states that babies who are born premature often have ADHD or ADD, without the hyperactivity aspect, when they become children. Sometimes children who were born premature are easily distracted and have a hard time in school. This condition can be managed with the help of trained professionals and special learning techniques.


According to Reuters, babies who were born premature have a higher risk of autism that those that were born full term. Autism is a complicated developmental, which diminishes a child’s ability to communicate with others. Children with autism often speak very little and sometimes have a hard time accepting change. Reuters states that preterm babies’ brains develop slower than full term babies’ brains do, even after birth, and that may be one of the reasons why they are at a higher risk of autism.


While not technically a medical disorder, aggressiveness is a symptom and a behavioral problem that premature babies often have as children. Science Daily states that babies born early may act more aggressive with others around them. This can be manifested in not sharing toys, fighting or hitting. However, aggressive tendencies can be decreased with the right behavioral approach and discipline.

Social Withdrawal

Another behavioral problem that children born premature often face is social withdrawal, according to Science Daily. The website explains that children who were born early have a harder time socializing with other children; they tend to prefer being alone. While this is not the case for all premature babies, as they get older, the slowed brain development may make it difficult for some to make friends. Parents of children born prematurely can set up play dates with other children or join sports teams to encourage their children to make friends rather than staying alone.

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