Children born extremely preterm (EPT), <28 weeks’ gestational age, face higher risks of movement difficulties than their term-born peers. Studies report varying prevalence estimates and prognostic factors identifying children who could benefit from early intervention are inconsistent. This study investigated the prevalence of movement difficulties in children born EPT and associated risk factors.


Data come from a population-based EPT birth cohort in 2011 and 2012 in 11 European countries. Children without cerebral palsy were assessed at 5 years of age (N = 772) with the Movement Assessment Battery for Children–Second Edition, which classifies movement difficulties as none (>15th percentile), at risk (6th–15th percentile) and significant (≤5th percentile). Associations with sociodemographic, perinatal, and neonatal characteristics collected from obstetric and neonatal medical records and parental questionnaires were estimated using multinomial logistic regression.


We found 23.2% (n = 179) of children were at risk for movement difficulties and 31.7% (n = 244) had significant movement difficulties. Lower gestational age, severe brain lesions, and receipt of postnatal corticosteroids were associated with significant movement difficulties, whereas male sex and bronchopulmonary dysplasia were associated with being at risk and having significant movement difficulties. Children with younger, primiparous, less educated, and non-European-born mothers were more likely to have significant movement difficulties. Differences in prevalence between countries remained after population case-mix adjustments.


This study confirms a high prevalence of movement difficulties among EPT children without cerebral palsy, which are associated with perinatal and neonatal risk factors as well as sociodemographic characteristics and country.

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