Original article| Volume 42, ISSUE 10, P713-719, November 2020

Download started.


Personality, emotional and cognitive functions in young adults born preterm



      Survival of preterm very low birthweight infants resulted in high risk for developmental cognitive deficits, poor academic achievement, and behaviour disorders. While numerous studies evaluated the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disability in early childhood, poor literature is available for infants born very low birthweight in adulthood.

      Materials and methods

      Fifty-five young adults born preterm (mean age: 18 ± 2.42 years; <33 weeks of gestational age and/or with birth weight <1500 g) were enrolled. The Verbal Intelligence Quotient (vIQ), Performance Intelligence Quotient (pIQ) and Total Intelligence Quotient (tIQ) were assessed through the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – Revised (WAIS-R). Personality profiles were investigated using Rorschach test. Both WAIS-R and Rorschach scores were subsequently compared to 13 matched controls born at term. Data were analysed with the SPSS v20 for Windows statistical package.


      Young adults born preterm showed lower IQ scores than young adults born at term: tIQ 90.95 ± 22.46 versus 108.77 ± 16.14, p = 0.006; vIQ 89.85 ± 21.85 versus 107.69 ± 18.33, p = 0.009, and pIQ 92.40 ± 22.90 versus 108.31 ± 14.52, p = 0.011. No differences emerged in personality profile as most subjects showed adequate internal resources in both groups, but a trend towards anxiety and insecurity were identified in young adult born preterm.


      Young adults born preterm show psychological fragility and lower cognitive pattern than young adults born at term. Data support the need of an early psychological intervention that could help these individuals at greater risk to face a young society that is changing and that necessarily requires stronger internal resources.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Brain and Development
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Sellier E.
        • Platt M.J.
        • Andersen G.L.
        • Krageloh-Mann I.
        • De La Cruz J.
        • Cans C.
        • et al.
        Decreasing prevalence in cerebral palsy: a multi-site European population-based study, 1980 to 2003.
        Dev Med Child Neurol. 2016; 58: 85-92
        • Aarnoudse-Moens C.S.
        • Weisglas-Kuperus N.
        • van Goudoever J.B.
        • Oosterlaan J.
        Meta-analysis of neurobehavioral outcomes in very preterm and/or very low birth weight children.
        Pediatrics. 2009; 124: 717-728
        • Johnson S.
        • Marlow N.
        Early and long-term outcome of infants born extremely preterm.
        Arch Dis Child. 2017; 102: 97-102
        • Breeman L.D.
        • Jaekel J.
        • Baumann N.
        • Bartmann P.
        • Wolke D.
        Preterm cognitive function into adulthood.
        Pediatrics. 2015; 136: 415-423
        • Doyle L.W.
        • Anderson P.J.
        Adult outcome of extremely preterm infants.
        Pediatrics. 2010; 126: 342-351
        • Kormos C.E.
        • Wikinson A.J.
        • Davey C.J.
        • Cunningham A.J.
        Low birth weight and intelligence in adolescence and early adulthood: a meta-analysis.
        J Public Health (Oxf). 2014; 36: 213-224
        • Gu H.
        • Wang L.
        • Liu L.
        • Luo X.
        • Wang J.
        • Hou F.
        • et al.
        A gradient relationship between low birth weight and IQ: a meta-analysis.
        Sci Rep. 2017; 7: 18035
        • Allotey J.
        • Zamora J.
        • Cheong-See F.
        • Kalidindi M.
        • Arroyo-Manzano D.
        • Asztalos E.
        • et al.
        Cognitive, motor, behavioural and academic performances of children born preterm: a meta-analysis and systematic review involving 64061 children.
        BJOG. 2018; 125: 16-25
        • Eryigit-Madzwamuse S.
        • Baumann N.
        • Jaekel J.
        • Bartmann P.
        • Wolke D.
        Neuro-cognitive performance of very preterm or very low birth weight adults at 26 years.
        J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2015; 56: 857-864
        • Brydges C.R.
        • Landes J.K.
        • Reid C.L.
        • Campbell C.
        • French N.
        • Anderson M.
        Cognitive outcomes in children and adolescents born very preterm: a meta-analysis.
        Dev Med Child Neurol. 2018; 6: 452-468
        • Asztalos E.V.
        • Church P.T.
        • Riley P.
        • Fajardo C.
        • Shah P.S.
        Canadian Neonatal Network and Canadian Neonatal Follow-up Network Investigators. Association between primary caregiver education and cognitive and language development of preterm neonates.
        Am J Perinatol. 2017; 34: 364-371
        • Breeman L.D.
        • Jaekel J.
        • Baumann N.
        • Bartmann P.
        • Wolke D.
        Neonatal predictors of cognitive ability in adults born very preterm: a prospective cohort study.
        Dev Med Child Neurol. 2017; 59: 477-483
        • Eryigit-Madzwamuse S.
        • Strauss V.
        • Baumann N.
        • Bartmann P.
        • Wolke D.
        Personality of adults who were born very preterm.
        Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2015; 100: F524-F529
        • Pyhala R.
        • Wolford E.
        • Kautiainen H.
        • Andersson S.
        • Bartmann P.
        • Baumann N.
        • et al.
        Self-reported mental health problems among adults born preterm: a meta-analysis.
        Pediatrics. 2017; 139e20162690
        • Lund L.K.
        • Vik T.
        • Lydersen S.
        • Løhaugen G.C.
        • Skranes J.
        • Brubakk A.M.
        • et al.
        Mental health, quality of life and social relations in young adults born with low birth weight.
        Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2012; 10: 146
        • Hallin A.L.
        • Stjerngvist K.
        Follow-up of adolescents born extremely preterm: self-perceived mental health, social and relational outcomes.
        Acta Pediatr. 2011; 100: 279-283
        • Jaekel J.
        • Baumann N.
        • Bartmann P.
        • Wolke D.
        Mood and anxiety disorders in very preterm/very low-birth weight individuals from 6 to 26 years.
        J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2018; 59: 88-95
        • Brummelte S.
        • Grunau R.E.
        • Chau V.
        • Poskitt K.J.
        • Brant R.
        • Vinall J.
        • et al.
        Procedural pain and brain development in premature newborns.
        Ann Neurol. 2012; 71: 385-396
      1. Ranger M, Chau CM, Garg A, Woodward TS, Beg MF, Bjornson B, et al Neonatal pain-related stress predicts cortical thickness at age 7 years in children born very preterm. PLoS One 2013; 18: e76702.

        • Viglione D.
        A review of recent research addressing the utility of the Rorschach.
        Psychol Assessment. 1999; 11: 251-265
        • Zelkowitz P.
        • Papageorgiou A.
        • Bardin C.
        • Wang T.
        Persistent maternal anxiety affects the interaction between mothers and their very low birthweight children at 24 months.
        Early Hum Dev. 2009; 85: 51-58
        • Feldman R.
        • Rosenthal Z.
        • Eidelman A.I.
        Maternal-preterm skin-to-skin contact enhances child physiologic organization and cognitive control across the first 10 years of life.
        Biol Psychiatry. 2014; 75: 56-64
        • Akbari E.
        • Binnoon-Erez N.
        • Rodrigues M.
        • Ricci A.
        • Schneider J.
        • Madigan S.
        • et al.
        Kangaroo mother care and infant biopsychosocial outcomes in the first year: A meta-analysis.
        Early Hum Dev. 2018; 122: 22-31
        • Pineda R.
        • Wallendorf M.
        • Smith J.
        A pilot study demonstrating the impact of the supporting and enhancing NICU sensory experiences (SENSE) program on the mother and infant.
        Early Hum Dev. 2020; 144105000
        • Arpi E.
        • Ferrari F.
        Preterm birth and behaviour problems in infants and preschool-age children: a review of the recent literature.
        Dev Med Child Neurol. 2013; 55: 788-796
        • Charpak N.
        • Tessier R.
        • Ruiz J.G.
        • Hernandez J.T.
        • Uriza F.
        • Villegas J.
        • et al.
        Twenty-year follow-up of kangaroo mother care versus traditional care.
        Pediatrics. 2017; 139e20162063
        • Ludington-Hoe S.M.
        • Johnson M.W.
        • Morgan K.
        • Lewis T.
        • Gutman J.
        • Wilson P.D.
        • et al.
        Neurophysiologic assessment of neonatal sleep organization: preliminary results of a randomized, controlled trial of skin contact with preterm infants.
        Pediatrics. 2006; 117: e909-e923
        • Griffiths N.
        • Spence K.
        • Loughran-Fowlds A.
        • Westrup B.
        Individualised developmental care for babies and parents in the NICU: evidence-based best practice guideline recommendations.
        Early Hum Dev. 2019; 139104840