The relation between admission to hospital during the preschool years and teacher and maternal ratings of child behaviour problems at age 6 years was studied in a birth cohort of New Zealand children. There was a slight but consistent trend for reported behaviour problems to increase with increasing length of hospital stay, however, control for family and social factors suggested that this correlation was spurious. Children admitted to hospital tended to come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and from families reporting large numbers of life events, and independently of this social background and life events were related to childhood behaviour problems. When the effects of family social background and life events were controlled for, there was no significant association between duration of hospital stay and reports of child behaviour problems. It is concluded that there is little evidence to suggest that in a modern paediatric setting, admission to hospital has any significant effect on the child's subsequent behavioural pattern.
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