According to a Danish research team premature or low birth weight babies are up to three times as likely to become hyperactive, with low attention spans.
The researchers say that hyperkinetic disorder (HKD) is one of the most common mental disorders diagnosed among children.
The disorder is characterised by hyperactivity, low attention span, and impulsive behaviour.
The Danish team compared the birth records of 834 children with confirmed HKD with those of 20,100 children with no mental disorders, all born between 1980 and 1994.
They discovered that children born at between 34 and 36 weeks were around 70% more likely to develop the disorder than children born at full-term, while babies at born below 34 completed weeks were almost three times as likely to develop the disorder.
Babies born at full term of low birth weight were also found to be at risk of developing the disorder.
Of the 834 children with confirmed HKD, nine out of 10 were boys and the age at which the children were diagnosed ranged from 2 to 18 years.
Factors such as single parenthood, social and economic deprivation, and young age at parenthood were all risk factors for HKD, but the results still held true even after these had been taken into account and the figures adjusted accordingly.
HKD affects up to one in 50 children and Britain has the highest premature baby rate in Europe.
The research is published in the current edition of the Archives of Disease in Childhood.