A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that babies born prematurely are less likely to become parents when they’re older. The study, which focused on the long-term social effects of premature birth, also found that babies born prematurely have a lower chance of having romantic relationships in adulthood, as well as close relationships throughout their lives.
Approximately one out of 10 babies are born prematurely in the U.S. Being born preterm puts children at risk for learning disabilities, mental health issues, neurocognitive issues and more. The earlier a child is born before their due date, the higher the risk for disabilities. While many studies focus on potential health effects following preterm birth, few look at the potential effects on a preterm baby’s social development and mental health into adulthood.
For the study, researchers screened over 1,800 scientific studies on babies born prematurely or under-weight, focusing on those that studied preterm babies into adulthood. They looked at 21 studies that focused on meaningful relationships, including sexual activity, romantic partners, and parenthood.
They analyzed the social behaviors of 4.4 million adults born before 37 weeks and found some startling trends. For example, they found that adults born preterm were 28 percent less likely to become parents compared to adults born full-term.
“The finding that adults who were born preterm are less likely to have a partner, to have sex, and become parents does not appear to be explained by a higher rate of disability,” study co-author Dr. Marina Goulet de Mendonça, a psychology professor at the University of Warwick, said in a statement to Fatherly. “Rather, preterm-born children have been previously found to have poorer social interactions in childhood that make it harder for them to master social transitions such as finding a partner, which in turn is proven to boost your well-being.”
Study co-author psychologist Dr. Dieter shared that the findings do not mean babies born prematurely will not have any close relationships, but it does suggest that early intervention that focuses on social development can be beneficial.
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