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Risk and resilience in preterm children at age 6

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 September 2014

Julie Poehlmann-Tynan*
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Emily D. Gerstein
University of Missouri–St. Louis
Cynthia Burnson
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Lindsay Weymouth
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Daniel M. Bolt
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Sarah Maleck
University of Wisconsin–Madison
A. J. Schwichtenberg
Purdue University
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, Department of Human Development & Family Studies, University of Wisconsin, 1300 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; E-mail:


Children born preterm are at risk for experiencing significant deleterious developmental outcomes throughout their childhood and adolescence. However, individual variation and resilience are hallmarks of the preterm population. The present study examined pathways to resilience across multiple domains (e.g., social activities, peer relations, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptomology, externalizing and internalizing behavior, and sleep quality) as children born preterm reached school age. The study also examined early child and family predictors of resilience. Using a prospective longitudinal design, 173 infants born preterm and without significant neurological complications were assessed at five time points: neonatal intensive care unit discharge, 9 months, 16 months, 24 months, and 6 years. Three pathways of adaptation emerged at 6 years: children who were resilient, those who remained at-risk, and children who exhibited significant difficulties. Resilient children were less likely to have experienced negative parenting at 9 and 16 months, more likely to delay gratification at 24 months, and more likely to experience neonatal health complications than nonresilient children.

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