No Excess of Mathematics Anxiety in Adolescents Born Very Preterm

Jayne Trickett, Camilla Gilmore, Lucy Cragg, Sarah Clayton, Neil Marlow, Victoria Simms, Rebecca Spong, Samantha Johnson

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Objective: To assess whether adolescents born very preterm (VP; <32 weeks’ gestation) have an excess of mathematics anxiety compared with their classmates born at term. Methods: This cohort study included 127 adolescents born VP (51% male, mean age 13.9 years, SD 0.7) and 95 term-born classmates (56% male, mean age 13.7 years, SD 0.7) who completed the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test 2nd UK Edition and the Mathematics Anxiety Scale-UK at age 11-15 years. Self-reported trait anxiety was assessed using a composite of three items from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Results: Adolescents born VP had significantly poorer mathematics attainment than adolescents born at term (difference in means: -0.64 SD; 95% CI -0.95, -0.34). However, there were no between-group differences in self-reported mathematics anxiety or trait anxiety. There were significant moderate associations between mathematics anxiety and mathematics attainment for adolescents born VP (rho: -.44) and at term (rho:-.52), after controlling for trait anxiety. Conclusion: Adolescents born VP do not have heightened mathematics anxiety compared with their term- born classmates, despite poorer attainment in mathematics. Improving domain-general cognitive skills and scaffolding learning in the classroom may be more promising avenues for intervention than attempting to reduce mathematics anxiety.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Early online date2 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished online - 2 Nov 2020


  • Preterm
  • outcome
  • anxiety
  • mathematics
  • cognition


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