Psychomotor development of preterm babies in the context of biomedical predictors in a Polish sample
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Online publication date: 2014-02-04
Health Psychology Report 2013;1(1):18-33
Preterm birth represents the most frequent complication of pregnancy all over the world. Much research is addressed to psychomotor development of preterm infants during the initial years of their life. Many authors emphasize the role of birth weight, gestational age, and gender in determining the child’s psychomotor development. This study adds to this knowledge as we analyzed the synergistic effect of biomedical predictors such as gestational age, birth weight, Apgar score, time in incubator, type of pregnancy defined based on its outcome, neonatal status immediately after delivery, infant’s gender, and possessing twin sibling. Combined effects of these factors represent an important niche in the studies of the developmental psychology of preterm infants.

Participants and procedure
The study included 49 preterm infants born in 2008-2009 at the Department of Obstetrics of the Medical University of Gdańsk. The psychomotor development of preterm infants was evaluated according to the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development®, Third Edition (BSID-III) at a mean, non-corrected age of 33.80 months (SD = 5.16).
For the purpose of the study we developed a basic model in the form of a pathway diagram, describing the cumulative influence of eight biomedical predictors on the development of the infants during early childhood.

Our study revealed a synergistic influence of biomedical predictors on the development of preterm infants with regards to cognitive functioning (28% of variance), language skills (10% of variance), motor skills (18% of variance), fine motor skills (16% of variance), and gross motor skills (20% of variance). Moreover, we observed an independent effect of birth weight, child’s gender, and final Apgar score on the psychomotor development of preterm infants. Higher birth weight was associated with higher level of cognitive function and fine motor skills. Male gender of a child was reflected by a higher level of cognitive function and language skills, including expressive communication. Finally, higher final Apgar scores resulted in better gross motor skills.

This study confirmed the independent influence of biomedical predictors, such as birth weight, gender, and Apgar score, on the psychomotor development of preterm babies during early childhood. Medical factors play a crucial role in the evaluation of psychomotor development in preterm infants, and their importance should not be undervalued.
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