Researchers from the University of Warwick Department of Psychology have found that preterm babies (those born under 37 weeks gestation) are 28% less likely to form romantic relationships and 22% less likely to experience parenthood in adulthood.
To come to their conclusion, published in JAMA Open Network, the researchers analyzed 4.4 million adult participants who were born preterm. The analysis also showed that preterm babies are 2.3 times less likely to ever have a sexual partner compared to their full-term peers. And those who were born very or extremely preterm (<32 to <28 weeks gestation) were even less likely to form romantic relationships or find a sexual partner.
The researchers believe these results are based on the fact that those adults who were born preterm because they are usually shier, more socially withdrawn, and are less likely to take risks and seek fun.
“The finding that adults who were born pre-term are less likely to have a partner, to have sex and become parents does not appear to be explained by a higher rate of disability,” said first author Dr. Marina Goulart de Mendonça. “Rather preterm born children have been previously found to have poorer social interactions in childhood that make it harder for them to master social transitions such as finding a partner, which in turn is proven to boost your wellbeing.”
However, the analysis also showed that when preterm adults enter into friendships or other close relationships, the quality of the relationship were just as good as those friendships formed by their full-term peers.
“Those caring for preterm children including parent’s health professionals and teachers should be more aware of the important role of social development and social integration for pre-term children,” said senior author Professor Dieter Wolke. “As preterm children tend to be more timid and shy, supporting them making friends and be integrated in their peer group will help them to find romantic partners, have sexual relationships and to become parents. All of which enhances well-being.”
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