Developmental outcomes of very preterm children with high parental education level

Carolien A. van Houdt*, Aleid G. van Wassenaer-Leemhuis, Jaap Oosterlaan, Anton H. van Kaam, Cornelieke S.H. Aarnoudse-Moens

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Compared to their term-born peers, children born very preterm are at risk for poorer cognitive, academic and behavioral outcomes, however this finding may have been confounded by lower parental education level in the very preterm children. Studies that compare very preterm and term-born children with comparable (high)parental education level are needed to assess the true effect of very preterm birth on outcomes. Aims: To compare cognitive, academic and behavioral functioning in very preterm and term-born children of highly educated parents. To examine whether outcomes differ for children of whom one or both parents are highly educated. Study design: Cross-sectional study with a term-born comparison group. Subjects: 113 very preterm children and 38 term-born children aged 8–12 years old, with highly educated parents. Measures: Cognitive functioning (Intelligence Quotient), academic functioning (arithmetic facts and reading)and parent and teacher rated behavioral functioning (attention, executive function, hyperactivity, and emotional, conduct and peer problems). Parental education was considered high when children had two highly educated parents or one highly- and one middle educated parent. Results: Very preterm children had significantly poorer cognitive (difference of 10 IQ points)and behavioral functioning than their term-born peers, but did not differ on academic functioning. Children with one highly educated parent performed poorer than children with two highly educated parents on most outcome measures. Conclusions: Performance of very preterm children should be compared to term-born peers with parents having comparable educational levels for accurate assessment of outcomes. The number of highly educated parents also impacts outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-17
Number of pages7
JournalEarly Human Development
Early online date28 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


This study was supported by grants from the Stichting Kinderpostzegels , Cornelia Stichting , Stichting Zabawas and Stichting Elise Mathilde Fonds . The sponsors had no involvement in study design; collection, analysis or interpretation of the data; writing of the report or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

FundersFunder number
Stichting Elise Mathilde Fonds
Stichting Zabawas


    • Academic achievement
    • Behavioral functioning
    • Cognitive development
    • Follow-up studies
    • Prematurity
    • Socio-economic status


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