Mathematics performance of children born very preterm predicts adult educational attainment

A new, multinational study has confirmed that the mathematics performance of children born very preterm (VP) is associated with adult educational attainment. Mathematical skills predict educational attainment specifically and beyond IQ. The findings of the study suggest that the follow-up and support provided for children born very preterm should continue throughout their formal school years.
Koulupoika asettelee erivärisiä kirjaimia ja numeroita koululuokassa liitutaululle,

Children who are born very preterm (before 32 weeks' gestation or under 1500 grams birthweight) are at increased risk of poor educational attainment and unemployment as young adults. Mathematics performance is critical in terms of children gaining education. In most industrialized nations there are at least two years of follow-up after very preterm birth, but this is not enough to help VP children have equal educational chances.

Professor of Clinical and Developmental Psychology at the University of Oulu, Finland, and the first author of the article, Julia Jaekel says the findings have direct implications for VP children and their families, as well as health and education services and policymakers: ”Very preterm children are expected to have caught up with their peers by the time they start formal schooling, but often the opposite is the case. If health professionals and educational professionals worked together, and if there were policies in place to help share information efficiently, then timely and specific support could be provided. There needs to be careful and informed follow-up after very preterm birth that continues throughout the school years. Usually by the time parents, teachers or others recognize there is need for support, several years have already passed and this cannot be made up for.”

The international team of world-renowned researchers harmonised data from six VP birth cohorts from five different countries (UK, US, Canada, Germany, and Australia) and carried out individual participant data meta-analyses. The results are representative for industrialized countries globally. This study was only possible through the collaborative work and the willingness of all the principal investigators involved to share their data as part of the Adults born Preterm International Collaboration (APIC) initiative.

The article Mathematical performance in childhood and early adult outcomes after very preterm birth: an individual participant data meta-analysis is published in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology.

Article: Jaekel, J., Anderson, P.J., Bartmann, P., Cheong, J.L.Y., Doyle, L.W., Hack, M., Johnson, S., Marlow, N., Saigal, S., Schmidt, L., Sullivan, M.C. and Wolke, D. (2021), Mathematical performance in childhood and early adult outcomes after very preterm birth: an individual participant data meta-analysis. Dev Med Child Neurol.

Last updated: 17.12.2021