Modern Psychiatry
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Modern Psychiatry

Low Birth Weight Linked to Aggression and Hyperactivity, Study Finds

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

According to March of Dimes, around 1 and 12 babies are born with low birth weight, any less than 5 pounds and 8 ounces, a pregnancy complication usually resulting from premature birth or fetal growth restriction. The condition can result from insufficient nutrients and oxygen exposure to the fetus. From a physiological standpoint, low birth weight has been linked to brain hemorrhaging, breathing problems, and other poor health outcomes that may arrest critical junctures during an infant’s development. Moreover, the World Health Organization affirms that this condition has also been closely associated with fetal and neonatal mortality, making nutritional management evermore critical in cases involving extremely low birth weight.

In a recent study published in Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, Irish researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland found that low birth weight — in addition to causing several physiological ailments — may also be linked to aggressive and hyperactive behaviour in children. At the time of this study’s publication, the link between ADHD and low birth weight has remained concrete, although it’s associated with autism and OCD has been somewhat subjective. The lead author Niamh Dooley and her associates assert that their study aims to “test the specificity of the psychological effects of birth weight to attention and other neurodevelopmental problems as opposed to general psychopathology.”

Drawing from data collected through the utilized data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, the team surveyed 9,076 children in the United States aged between 9–10 years old, a sample which excluded children of multiple births. Data were gathered by assessing results from completed behavioural assessments and analyzing birth weight, gestational age, family history psychopathology, and socioeconomic factors.

After compiling such results, the researchers found that difficulties with attention and hyperactivity were most profound in children born with lower birth weights. Of note, the study also emphasized that the same demographics experienced numerous bodily problems, such as headaches, nausea, stomach aches, and many more afflictions. The authors also emphasized that these findings are also corroborated by previous research, which has indicated a relationship between low birth weight and specific physiological concerns.

Most interestingly, the study also found no significant link between low birth weight; contraction results when contrasted with outcomes of other research efforts. The scientists, in addition to linking birth weight with attention, also deduced that newborns who weighed less might also be at a higher risk for aggressive behaviour during childhood. However, the study further established that these elevations were mainly demonstrated in male samples, as opposed to females.

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Eric J. Taipale

Eric J. Taipale

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Eric J. Taipale is a science writer who mainly writes on subjects related to psychiatry and mental health sciences.