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Children who are born prematurely are far more likely to need special-education services when they get to school than are children who are born full term, a new study has found.

The study, conducted by researchers from Cornell University Medical School, studied 88 New York State children between the ages of 7 and 8 years old who had weighed less than 1,500 grams at birth.

Nearly half of the children born prematurely needed special education, while only 15 percent of the full-term children in the study were receiving special-education services. In contrast, 10 percent of the general elementary-school age population in New York needs special education.

The report, published in this month's issue of Pediatrics, also found that premature children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds had lower scores on tests measuring verbal ability, school achievement, and attention than did similar children from more advantaged families.

Having a gun at home increases the chances that a potentially suicidal teenager will kill himself, a new study suggests.

The study, published in the Dec. 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, compared 47 adolescents who committed suicide with 47 peers who had attempted suicide and 47 nonsuicidal teenagers with psychiatric problems. The study, conducted by a team of researchers from several medical institutions in Pittsburgh, found that guns were twice as likely to be found in the homes of suicide victims as in the homes of the two other control groups.

The paper found that handguns were not significantly more likely to be associated with suicide than were long guns, and that even properly storing firearms did not prevent suicidal teenagers from using them.

The authors state that since many adolescents try to kill themselves on an impulse, removing guns from a home would likely lower the overall suicide rate.

"The general controversy regarding gun licensure and ownership notwithstanding, it is clear that firearms have no place in the homes of psychiatrically troubled adolescents," the researchers conclude.

More than four out of five births to teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 between 1985 and 1989 occurred out of wedlock, a new U.S. Census Bureau report indicates.

Between 1960 and 1964, fewer than one-third of the pregnant girls this age bore children out of wedlock, the data reveal. This trend was true for all women ages 15-35; between 1960-64 and 1985-89, out-of-wedlock births increased from 12.7 percent to 28.5 percent. --E.F.

Vol. 11, Issue 15, Page 8

Published in Print: December 11, 1991, as Health Column
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