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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 Second UK Edition and the Mathematics Anxiety Scale-UK at the age of 11 to 15 years. Self-reported trait anxiety was assessed using a composite of 3 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% confidence interval -0.95 to -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: -0.45) and at term (rho: -0.54), 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 publication




Journal article


J Dev Behav Pediatr

Publication Date





220 - 226


Adolescent, Anxiety, Child, Cohort Studies, Female, Gestational Age, Humans, Infant, Extremely Premature, Infant, Newborn, Male, Mathematics