Response inhibition difficulties in preterm children aged 9-12 years: Relations with emotion and behavior.


Previous studies with children have demonstrated inhibition difficulties associated with prematurity, but the question of potentially catching up with a delay in inhibition processes before adolescence still remains. Moreover, preterm adolescents are more at risk than their term-born peers for presenting behavioral problems such as emotional difficulties and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In addition to examining response inhibition, this study addressed, for the first time, the impact of an emotional context on response inhibition abilities and its relation to behavioral problems in late school-aged preterm children. Fifty-eight preterm children aged 9-12 years were compared with 61 controls on two versions of a stop-signal task, the Delay Frustration Task, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Results showed general difficulties in inhibiting a response, rather than a specific impact of emotional context in preterm children. Compared with controls, these children exhibited more and longer button presses in a delay situation, as well as faster go reaction times associated with lower probability of inhibition in the stop-signal tasks. These difficulties reflected impulsivity and were associated with higher hyperactivity/inattention and conduct problems. Additionally, intrauterine growth restriction was found to be an additional perinatal risk factor for hyperactivity/inattention symptoms. These findings suggest that remaining inhibition difficulties in the preterm population at preadolescence could reveal increasing behavioral issues.