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Effect of Birth Weight on Intelligence

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: Did the weight of the new born baby can affect his or her IQ as my daughter is born with low weight less than 2400 GM , and if it affect how much the effect and what i can do?

A: There have been numerous studies that claim low birth weight (usually lower than 2.5 kg) to have an adverse effect on intelligence.

However, more recent studies, suggest that the weight to intelligence link extends to normal-sized babies as well. Having said that, most research in general indicated that higher birth weights meant slightly higher IQ. Studies have also shown that increasing birth weight kept on increasing IQ until the baby reached 4.2kg. This has not been proven, but there is a strong chance that the relationship between IQ and birth weight could possibly be due the nutrition available to the foetus during early pregnancy, which is a period vital to neurodevelopment. Studies have also indicated that social class was a more powerful predictor of intelligence than birth weight alone, and social class and birth weight were largely independent.

Having that in mind, in general there are many things that influence cognitive development in children, and some have proven to be far more powerful than birth weight alone. This includes parental involvement in education, early nurturance and observation of growth and development.

Nurture plays a very dynamic role here so you may want to be actively involved in educating your baby as early as possible. Early education and intervention is crucial if there are other problems linked to low birth weight. It is also best that you consult a specialist to ensure that your baby is getting the right nutrition and ways to increase her weight to the normal range. Best wishes to you.


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