Social Challenges




Socio-Emotional Development Following Very Preterm Birth:  Pathways to Psychopathology

Anita Montagna and Chiara Nosarti

"Very preterm birth (VPT; < 32 weeks of gestation) has been associated with an increased risk to develop cognitive and socio-emotional problems, as well as with increased vulnerability to psychiatric disorder, both with childhood and adult onset. Socio-emotional impairments that have been described in VPT individuals include diminished social competence and self-esteem, emotional dysregulation, shyness and timidity. However, the etiology of socio-emotional problems in VPT samples and their underlying mechanisms are far from understood."


Premature babies that were born less than 32 weeks have an increased risk to develop socio-emotional problems. The ability to make new friends comes naturally to many adults, however some find it difficult and frustrating to connect with peers. They prefer the safety of familiar peers, narrowing their choices due to fear of feeling awkward and uncomfortable. Adults who have social anxiety can have negative thoughts about going to an event, the more these negative thoughts run through their minds the more it increases their anxiety and eventually they will avoid the event altogether.

Adults may fear speaking in front of a group and eating in front of people which might prevent them from going to places, applying for a job or leaving the house. They are particularly vulnerable to loneliness, social isolation and bullying.

They can also fail to notice certain social cues and misunderstand or not notice others body language and experience difficulty with intimate relationships.

They might experience failure, inadequacy and depression from social anxiety so getting a proper diagnosis is essential.


Adults that are overwhelmed about going to an event should break it down into the smallest steps e.g. instead of attending a large party meet a friend for lunch. Also, it benefits adults in being involved in an activity that they enjoy as they might find it easier in talking with others about something they enjoy.

Adults should be encouraged to practice breathing and relaxation techniques which can help with social anxiety. In some cases, more intensive treatment may be needed to going to a family doctor will determine how much help they need.

“Do one thing every day that scares you”
Eleanor Roosevelt

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Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances.To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].