By Caitlin St John
July 28, 2015

Premature birth has been previously linked to multiple long-term complications, such as behavioral issues and learning disabilities. However, a new study published in Archives of Disease in Childhood (Fetal & Neonatal Edition) has also found that certain personality traits are more commonly found among adults who were born preterm.

A team of researchers from England compared a group of 200 individuals who were born at a very low birth weight (less than about 3 lb 5 oz) or less than 32 weeks old with 197 individuals who were born at term and at a normal birth weight. All people surveyed were 26 years old at the time of the study, and the study looked at their personality traits, likelihood of risk-taking, and broad autism phenotype.

It was found that people born prematurely or with low birth weight were less socially engaged, more easily worried, and poor communicators. This group also scored lower on risk-taking and agreeableness when compared to the group who was born at a healthy, full-term weight.

Of course, personality is also influenced by the environment one grows up in, childhood life experiences as well as genetics. Researchers acknowledged that premature birth accounted for approximately 11 percent of the study's personality assessment.

The authors concluded that these findings could help explain the higher rate of social difficulties for adults who fall into the very premature or very low birth weight group.

"If identified early, parents could be provided with techniques to foster their child's social skills to help compensate for socially withdrawn personality characteristics," adds lead author Prof. Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick in a press release.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Image: Preemie holding hand via Shutterstock


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