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Research Shows Developmental Tracking Of Triplets

July 6, 2009

A study published Monday showed that by the age of 5, most triplets are on par with their peers in mental and emotional development, but those born at the lowest weights may still lag behind, Reuters reported.

Among 126 singletons, twins and triplets that were followed from birth to age 5, triplets generally trailed behind their peers in cognitive development over the first two years of life, according to a study from an Israeli research team.

But the research, published in the journal Pediatrics, said that by age 5, many triplets had bridged the gaps in both IQ and social development.

However, one exception was noted in triplets who had been particularly growth-restricted in the womb””weighing more than 15 percent less than the sibling with the highest birth weight. These children were found to still be developmentally behind both their siblings and peers by age 5.

Lead researcher Dr. Ruth Feldman of Bar-Ilan University told Reuters Health that until now, there had been no well-designed studies following the development of triplets over the first few years of life.

“The catch-up seen among most triplets in this study is excellent news,” she said.

She noted that parents of triplets should be aware that their children may be slower to reach developmental milestones in infancy, but most are likely to close that gap during the preschool years.

However, children who were born substantially smaller than their siblings may not catch up, as the study found that at age 5, these children typically scored at the lower end of the normal range for intellectual, emotional and social development.

The average verbal IQ for such kids was about 95, which, while within normal range, would make it difficult for a child to get through standard schooling, Feldman explained.

The 21 sets of triplets in the study commonly experienced some sort of growth restriction.

According to Feldman, among 65 percent of these triplets, one sibling was born weighing more than 15 percent less than the heaviest sibling””a finding that emphasizes the importance of giving these children extra attention from infancy onward.

She said that knowing these children respond to parental investment already in the first months of life tells parents to be especially sensitive and responsive to them during critical development years.

Additionally, the children’s development during infancy and preschool should be continuously monitored, and parents and children should receive extra help when needed.

This included interventions to help children regulate their emotions and cultivate social skills, or aid to improve their attention and concentration skills.

The researchers noted that more studies are needed to see whether the developmental gaps persist into later childhood and adolescence.

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