Small babies do better today than in the past

Research using Child of the New Century (CNC) has shown that being born at a low weight has a less negative effect on children nowadays.

Researchers at the London School of Economics and the University of Helsinki in Finland used information from CNC and studies of people born in 1958 and 1970 to show that low birth weight babies develop better than those born in previous generations.

When we first visited you and your family when you were 9 months old, your parents told us how much you weighed when you were born. Low birth weight babies were under 2.5kg, and very low birth weight babies weighed under 1.5kg.

At age 11 we assessed your numeracy and literacy skills.

Surprisingly, more children born at the turn of the century were small than in previous generations.

Children were more likely to have a low birth weight if they were from less advantaged homes, and from families where the mother smoked and drank alcohol during pregnancy. First-born children and girls also had greater odds of being born small.

Across all generations, children born small tended to perform less well in numeracy and literacy exercises than those born at a normal weight. However, the researchers found that the gap had more than halved for your children compared to those born earlier.

Compared to earlier generations, you would have benefited from a range of medical treatments that were not available previously. These advances in medical care would have helped with brain development as well as reducing the effect of other negative consequences linked to low birth weight.