Premature babies who cry a
lot may be more likely than other preemies to have behaviour problems by the
time they reach preschool, a new study suggests.
Experts said the reasons
for the finding are not certain, and no one knows whether
"interventions" to soothe preemies' crying would ward off behaviour
"In many ways, this
study raises more questions than it answers," said Dr Andrew Adesman,
chief of developmental and behavioural paediatrics at Steven & Alexandra
Cohen Children's Medical Centre in New Hyde Park, New York.
Parents and paediatricians
should pay attention to preemies' "excessive crying", said Adesman,
who was not involved in the study.
But that won't necessarily
lead to a better-behaved preschooler, he added.
For the study, child
psychiatrist Riikka Korja and colleagues at Turku University Hospital in
Finland followed 180 premature infants delivered at their hospital. The babies
were all born at a very low birth weight – less than 1 500 grams, or 3.3
Parents kept diaries to
record how often, and for how long, their baby cried each day. Then when their
child was 3 or 4 years old, they completed standard questionnaires that gauge behaviour
issues – such as rule-breaking and problems getting along with other kids.
Read: Colic – The facts
Overall, the study found
that the more infants cried each day, the higher their scores on problem behaviours
at preschool age. That link was especially strong when the researchers focused
on crying at the age of 5 months – which is beyond the age where
"colic" (crying for hours a day) is common.
At 5 months, babies in the
study were crying for a little more than an hour per day, on average. According
to Korja's team, the findings suggest that 5-month-olds who are crying more
often than the norm may have higher odds of behaviour problems later.
But another expert
cautioned that prolonged crying does not mean your child is doomed to have
serious behaviour issues.
Most kids in the study had behavioural
scores that were within the range of "normal", said Dr Katherine
Steingass of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
"Just because your
baby is crying a lot does not mean they're going to have significant behavioural
problems," said Steingass, who was not involved in the study.
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