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Light at birth, high on morale later

Chicago, May 5 (Reuters): Children who come into the world at an extremely low birth weight — a condition that can lead to behaviour and learning problems — appear to grow into self-assured teenagers who don’t feel left behind by their peers, researchers said today.

“Overall, the findings of this study are reassuring,” said the authors of the report.

“Although there are still a few mild residual behavioural problems and some concerns with adaptive functioning as reported by parents, the adolescents seem to view themselves positively in all aspects and are engaging in fewer risk-seeking behaviours,” they added.

The findings were based on a review of 263 youngsters in Ontario studied over the years since their birth. Some of the group had extremely low birth weights (less than 1 kg) while the rest were born at normal weights. The low weight usually accompanies premature birth.

The study from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, was published in the May issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

It found that the parents of the low-birth weight children reported that they “continued to show significantly lower competence... in sports, clumsiness and school difficulties”.

But it said that the parental perception “did not hinder the adolescents in their participation in coached activi- ties, whether it was sports, arts, music or other hobbies; nor did it impact on friends or teacher/family relationships”.

The report said the reasons for this positive self-perception are not known but could include “a recalibration of their expectations or other undeterm-ined factors (but) regardless, the extremely low birth weight cohort appear to be adjusting fairly well in their life; risky behaviours such as alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking were lower compared with the control group”.

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