Autism Traits Often Present in Adults Born Preterm at Very Low Birth Weight

the MPR take:

New research in the journal Pediatrics suggests that adults born preterm at very low birth weight (VLBW) report higher levels of autism-spectrum disorder (ASD)-related traits that persist into adulthood compared to term-born adults. As part of the Helsinki Study of Very Low Birth Weight Adults, 110 VLBW adults and 104 adults group-matched for age, birth, hospital, and gender completed the 50 item self-rated Autism Spectrum Quotient; none reported an ASD diagnosis. VLBW adults scored higher (indicating higher ASD-related traits) on the ASQ’s social interaction sum score and lower on the attention to detail sum score. The groups did not differ in terms of other ASQ scales. In addition, VLBW adults who grew faster in weight from birth to term scored lower on the total and social interaction sum scores and had lower odds of scoring above the intermediate cutoff on the total sum score. Faster growth from term to 1 year of corrected age was not statistically linked to ASQ scores. The study does not make causal inferences or specify underlying mechanisms, the authors add, but it does add to the small number of cohort studies comparing preterm and term-born adults and ASD-related traits.

Very Low Birth Weight, Infant Growth, and Autism-Spectrum Traits in Adulthood
Very Low Birth Weight, Infant Growth, and Autism-Spectrum Traits in Adulthood

OBJECTIVES: We examined whether adults born preterm at very low birth weight (VLBW; <1500 g) differ from term-born adults in autism-spectrum traits, and whether among VLBW adults, growth in infancy is associated with these traits. METHODS: A total of 110 VLBW and 104 term-born adults of the Helsinki Study of Very Low Birth Weight Adults completed the Autism-Spectrum Quotient yielding total, social interaction, and attention to detail sum scores.

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