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Regulatory Problems in Infancy Tied to Behavioral Issues

Last Updated: April 27, 2011.

Children with previous regulatory problems during infancy may have an increased risk of behavioral problems compared to controls, according to a meta-analysis published online April 20 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

WEDNESDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- Children with previous regulatory problems during infancy may have an increased risk of behavioral problems compared to controls, according to a meta-analysis published online April 20 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Mirja Helen Hemmi, Ph.D., from the University of Basel in Switzerland, and colleagues analyzed 22 longitudinal studies including 1,935 children with regulatory problems to evaluate the correlation between infant regulatory problems and childhood internalizing, externalizing, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) problems. Associations between regulatory problems and behavioral problems were expressed by Cohen's d. Effect sizes were measured, and the influence of moderators was assessed.

The investigators found that, compared to controls, children with previous regulatory problems have more behavioral problems (mean effect size for the main regulatory problems-behavioral problems correlation, 0.41). The strongest outcomes of any regulatory problem were externalizing and ADHD problems. There were no significant moderating influences for regulatory problem comorbidity, type, or duration. Children with multiple regulatory problems who experienced cumulative risk factors as infants had more behavioral problems than those with a small number of risk factors. In addition, the correlation between regulatory problems and behavioral problems was higher in those with clinical referral.

"Regulatory problems in infancy can increase the likelihood of developing behavioral problems in childhood," the authors write. "Our findings highlight the requirement for prospective follow-up studies of regulatory disturbed infants and the need for reliable assessments of crying, sleeping, and feeding problems."

The study was partially funded by F. Hoffmann-La Roche.

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