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Effects of gender on the health and development of medically at-risk infants

Cho J, Holditch-Davis D, Miles MS.

School of Nursing, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.

Abstract

Objectives: To examine gender-differentiated health and cognitive/motor/language developmental outcomes among medically at-risk infants.

Design: Longitudinal descriptive and comparative secondary analysis.

Setting: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, intermediate care unit, and infectious disease clinic of tertiary medical centers in the southeast and east United States.

Participants: One hundred eight (108) premature infants, 67 medically fragile infants, and 83 infants seropositive for HIV.

Methods: Neonatal and later health variables were obtained from the medical record to determine the technology dependence scores and frequency of common health problems. Data for physical growth and cognitive/motor/language development were obtained through the physical measurement, including the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-Second Edition, the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale, the Toll Control Developmental Checklist, and the Preschool Language Scale-3 during home visits between 6 and 27 months corrected ages.

Results: Fewer effects on health and developmental outcomes related to gender were observed with medically fragile infants than the other two groups of infants. The cognitive/motor/language scores were decreased with increasing age of the infants in all groups.

Conclusion: Male gender can be considered a significant biological risk factor for infants' cognitive and motor development, especially for premature infants. Because of their increased risk, it is recommended that male infants who are born prematurely or seropositive for HIV have early and advanced developmental screening tests by trained personnel through periodic pediatric clinic.