1980 to 1983 with birth weights of less than 1,500 grams had similar social activities and similar experiences with sex (Cooke et al., 2004). More young adults who had been born preterm were parents, but they had lower rates of participation in higher education and paid employment.
Saigal and colleagues (2006a) found no significant differences in high school graduation rates, the level of education attained, rates of employment, rates of independent living, marriage or cohabitation status, or rates of parenthood between 22- and 25-year-olds born weighing between 501 and 1,000 grams and those born with normal birth weights. Subanalyses, however, revealed that more participants born with extremely low birth weights reported that they were neither in school nor employed, although these differences disappeared when those with disabilities were excluded. These results suggest that individuals born preterm can make a successful transition into adulthood. It is noted, however, that the participants in this sample were predominantly white, were from relatively advantaged homes, and had access to universal health care.
The spectrum of neurodevelopmental disabilities and functional outcomes in children, adolescents, and young adults born preterm is wide. Likewise, the prevalences of neurodevelopmental disabilities and neurosensory impairments in people born preterm are quite variable. This is not surprising, in light of the multiple etiologies and complications of preterm birth, the variability of both the intrauterine and the extrauterine environments to which they are exposed, and the infinite genetic variations of humans.
Finding 11-2: There is tremendous variation in the outcomes reported for individuals born preterm. Much of this variation is due to a lack of uniformity in study sample selection criteria, the study methodologies used, the age of evaluation, and the measurement tools and cutoffs used.
Finding 11-3: Few long-term studies of adolescents and adults born preterm have been conducted. Good indicators of the functional development of the central nervous system of preterm infants in neonatal intensive care units are lacking, and predictors of longterm neurodevelopmental and health outcomes are inadequate.