2. Attention problems and ADHD
Children born very preterm are three times more likely to have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, than children who were born at term. ADHD is diagnosed when children have persistent difficulties with attention or hyperactivity and impulsivity. ADHD most commonly affects children and adolescents, but can persist into adulthood.
Children with ADHD who were born preterm primarily have problems with attention, and few also have difficulties with hyperactivity or impulsivity. This is an important difference between preterm children and other children with ADHD.
Look the graph and listen to the explanation to hear more about this.
Play the video for an interpretation of the graph
This graph shows the proportion of children born very preterm and term born children who have difficulties associated with ADHD.
The y axis shows the percentage of children with difficulties, so the higher the bars the greater the proportion of children with difficulties in those areas.
Looking first at the pair of bars on the left, this shows the proportion of children with attention problems, with the very preterm children shown in blue and the term born children in orange. You can see that the very preterm children are at markedly higher risk for attention problems, with 17% of very preterm children having clinically significant attention problems compared with just 4% of the children born at term. This is a large difference of 13%.
However, when you look at the pair of bars on the right, you can see that the rates of hyperactivity problems are fairly similar between the groups, with 9% of very preterm children having hyperactivity problems compared with 7% of their term born peers, a difference of just 2%.
In summary, this graph shows that, even though children born very preterm have similar rates of hyperactivity to children born at term, they are almost 4 times more likely to have attention problems.
The data used to create this graph were taken from: Brogan, E., Cragg, L., Gilmore, C., Marlow, N., Simms, V., & Johnson, S. (2014). Inattention in very preterm children: implications for screening and detection. Archives of disease in childhood, 99(9), 834-839. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2013-305532
We thank the authors for the additional data used to create this graph.