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No Excess of Mathematics Anxiety in Adolescents Born Very Preterm

Trickett, Jayne; Gilmore, Camilla; Cragg, Lucy; Clayton, Sarah; Marlow, Neil; Simms, Victoria; Spong, Rebecca; Johnson, Samantha

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Jayne Trickett

Camilla Gilmore

Professor of Developmental Psychology

Sarah Clayton

Neil Marlow

Victoria Simms

Rebecca Spong

Samantha Johnson


To assess whether adolescents born very preterm (VP; [less than] 32 weeks' gestation) have an excess of mathematics anxiety compared with their classmates born at term.

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.

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.

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.


Trickett, J., Gilmore, C., Cragg, L., Clayton, S., Marlow, N., Simms, V., …Johnson, S. (2021). No Excess of Mathematics Anxiety in Adolescents Born Very Preterm. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 42(3), 220-226.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 19, 2020
Online Publication Date Nov 2, 2020
Publication Date Apr 1, 2021
Deposit Date Sep 25, 2020
Publicly Available Date Nov 3, 2021
Journal Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics
Print ISSN 0196-206X
Electronic ISSN 1536-7312
Publisher Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 42
Issue 3
Pages 220-226
Keywords Psychiatry and Mental health; Developmental and Educational Psychology; Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the author's post-print of the article. The definitive version is published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics


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