Gender and intellectual abilities in adolescents with low birthweight

S Kulseng, A Lundervold, T Vik, M S Indredavik, J Skranes, K A Indredavik, Peter Fayers, A M Brubakk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Aim: In adolescents with birth weight < 1500 gram or born small for gestation age, impaired intellectual development has been reported. Few studies have explored gender differences at this age. The aim of this study was to assess intellectual abilities in adolescent boys and girls with low birth weight. Design/methods: At the age of 14, two groups of adolescents with low birth weight (54 prematures with birth weight <1500 g (VLBW, 24 girls, 30 boys) and 60 small for gestational age born at term (SGA, 32 girls and 28 boys)) were compared to 83 controls with normal birth weight at term (NBW, 48 girls, 35 boys). Intellectual abilities were assessed by four subtests from WISC-III (Arithmetics, Vocabulary, Picture arrangement and Block design). Verbal IQ was estimated from Vocabulary and Arithmetics, Performance IQ from Picture arrangement and Block design. Full scale IQ was estimated from Verbal and Performance IQ, using the WISC-III manual. Results: Full scale estimated IQ for the groups were: VLBW: 78.2 ( +22.0) (mean SD), SGA: 90.4 ( +17.7) and NBW: 94.6 ( +16.5). The girls in the VLBW group scored lower than the SGA and NBW on full scale IQ (26.6 and 26.9 points, p<.001), Verbal IQ (17.8 and 18.7, p<.005) and Performance IQ (32.2 and 30.5 p<.001) and on all the WISC-III sub tests (p<.01). There were no differences in Full scale IQ or Verbal IQ between the boys in the three groups. In the SGA boys, Performance IQ was slightly lower than in NBW boys (p<.05). Differences in scores between VLBW girls and VLBW boys were significant for Full scale IQ, Verbal IQ and Performance IQ (p<.005) and all the sub tests (p< .02). VLBW girls scored lower than the NBW girls on all subtests, the boys on Arithmetic's (# p<.01) and slightly lower on Picture arrangement ( * p<0.05, table). For the SGA group, there was a slight gender difference in Block design (p.<05) with girls outperforming the boys. For Full scale IQ and Verbal IQ, no differences were found either between groups or between girls and boys when comparing SGA to NBW. Conclusion: When assessed for intellectual abilities in adolescence, VLBW boys performed similar to NBW boys with exception of Arithmetics. VLBW girls performed lower on all items. This gender difference was unexpected and warrants further studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-609
Number of pages1
JournalPediatric Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2003


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