Preterm birth: Transition to adulthood

Marilee C. Allen, Elizabeth Cristofalo, Christina Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Preterm birth is associated with greater difficulty with transitions from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. Adolescents and young adults born preterm have higher rates of cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, cognitive impairment, learning disability, executive dysfunction, attention deficit disorder, and social-emotional difficulties than their peers born fullterm. Compared to individuals born fullterm, more preterm survivors have major neurodevelopmental or psychiatric disability and need financial supports and societal resources. Neuroimaging studies of adolescents and adults born preterm report higher rates of brain injury, differences in regional brain structure, and different brain circuits than in those born fullterm. Making the transition to adulthood is more difficult for young adults who were born preterm than their peers born fullterm, in that fewer complete high school and higher education, find and keep meaningful employment, and live independently from their parents. As a group, they do not tend to be risk-takers, and they have lower rates of alcohol abuse, use of illicit drugs, and criminal offenses than do their peers. Despite their many challenges, the majority of adults born preterm function well, form personal relationships, integrate well into their community, and are as satisfied with their quality of life as are their peers. Concerns regarding current preterm infants, with more extremely preterm survivors, overwhelming our medical, educational, and societal resources should serve as an impetus for research on prevention of preterm births and brain injury, as well as how to support and promote their ongoing neuromaturation and recovery from injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-335
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Disabilities Research Reviews
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Birthweight
  • Brain injury
  • Developmental outcome
  • Gestational age
  • Prematurity
  • Preterm birth
  • White matter injury
  • Young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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