Year of Publication

2006

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Ramesh Bhatt

Abstract

As medical advances are made in the area of neonatology, more and more premature babies are surviving at younger gestational ages and lower birth weights. Growth in the survival rates of preterm infants leads to questions regarding the long term developmental trajectory of these children. The current study sought to expand on research regarding dimensions of childhood functioning and to apply it to the problem of prematurity by (a) utilizing a new instrument: the Merrill Palmer Revised edition, (b) including children of preterm and full term birth statuses from as young as 2 months of age, and (c) collecting data from parental and clinician reports. In addition to attempts to clarify the relationship between birth status and childhood dysfunction, this study also sought to augment existing literature by exploring the correlation between parental report and clinician observation of childhood dysfunction. The results of this study did not support the hypothesis that children of preterm birth will demonstrate more problems in functioning when compared to full term peers. Although there were more significant differences between preterm and full term children in the older cohort group, those differences did not consistently reflect dysfunction by the preterm children. Additionally, this study considered dimensions of dysfunction as measured by parental report and clinician observations. Notably, a lack of agreement between parent and clinician observations emerged for the young age cohort group. However, the high level of agreement for the older children suggests that parental and clinician perspectives converge with older children. Contrary to the hypothesis, birth status, gender, ethnicity, and SES did not collectively form a specific risk index for dysfunction. However, these factors did interact with each other to predict functioning on several scales. In fact, there were no significant main effects. Instead, predictors of dysfunction were interactions of variables such as birth status, age, gender, and ethnicity. This general finding illustrates the importance of taking into consideration all aspects of the childs situation when making an assessment of functioning.

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