Low birth weight matters later, too

8:47am, February 13, 2002

Premature babies weighing less than 1.5 kilograms–about 3 pounds, 5 ounces–at birth grow up to have lower achievement scores on standard tests and are less likely to go to college than are full-term babies weighing more than twice as much, a study finds. On the other hand, these premature infants tend to be less mischief-prone as they grow, researchers report in the Jan. 17 New England Journal of Medicine.

Scientists tracked 242 babies who on average were born 7 weeks premature and weighed 1.18 kg at birth. The researchers compared the group's progress at age 20 with that of 233 people who were born full-term and who averaged 3.28 kg at birth. All the babies were born in the late 1970s in inner-city Cleveland.

Although socioeconomic status was similar for all the babies, fewer in the low-birth-weight group were enrolled in four-year colleges. They also scored lower on IQ tests.

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