Preemie Development - a quick look

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Keeping an eye on your preemies development can help you determine when a little help might be necessary.


Preemies aren't just small...

Sometimes preterm children can develop at different rates to a child born full term. In this way it is important to know the key developmental milestones and timeline so that you are able to give your preemie any help if required.

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Most preemies will grow up without any major difficulties but the tiniest and sickest premature infants are at an increased risk for executive functioning difficulties.

Executive function (EF) refers to a collection of processes that are responsible for purposeful, goal-directed behavior, such as planning, setting goals, initiating, using problem-solving strategies, and monitoring thoughts and behavior. Executive functioning is important for a child's intellectual development, behavior, emotional control, and social interaction.

Executive Function

Different aspects of executive functioning develop at different ages, ranging from motor inhibition and impulse control, which are already developing during the second year of life, to more complex functions such as attention, and smooth production of abstract content, which continue to develop into adolescence.

(Anderson & Doyle, 2004)(Bohm, Smedler, & Forssberg, 2004)

As with most other elements of cognition, premature children tend to perform more poorly on measures of EF.

preterm children are at risk for executive functioning difficulties


The most comprehensive study on this topic assessed school-aged children who were born extremely low birth weight and/or extremely preterm and these premature children demonstrated difficulties across a range of different executive function tasks.

(Anderson & Doyle, 2004)

What can parents do?

  • Check in with your pediatrician if you have any concerns. You may need a referral to a neuropsychologist for an assessment or for extra assistance in the classroom.
  • Click here to visit the solutions section of the site Strategies for executive function difficulties
  • Extra resources and links to neuropsychologists will be available online at soon.

    Technical Reference List

    Anderson, P. J., & Doyle, L. W. (2004). Executive functioning in school-aged children who were born very preterm or with extremely low birth weight in the 1990s. Pediatrics, 114(1), 50-57. Bohm, B., Smedler, A. C., & Forssberg, H. (2004). Impulse control, working memory and other executive functions in preterm children when starting school. Acta Paediatrica, 93(10), 1363-1371.



AlbertEinstein_iconOne of the greatest minds in history, Albert Einstein was born preterm.

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Preemie, Premmie, or Prem?

Most babies spend between 38 and 42 weeks in their mother’s uterus. So, technically a preterm birth, preemie, premmie, or prem, is an infant who is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks. 

Read More: Defining Preterm birth



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