Page last updated: Sep 2019
Light drinking during pregnancy: Social advantages explain positive correlates with child and early adolescent adjustment

Research on lower levels of prenatal drinking are mixed with a few studies even predicting positive cognitive and psychosocial outcomes.
Using prospective, intergenerational data from the nationally-representative Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) in the United Kingdom, a group of researchers studied associations between mother’s drinking during pregnancy and children’s cognitive and psychosocial outcomes at ages 3, 5, 7, 11, and 14?years (n?=?10,454). The study included early life confounders (e.g., maternal education, health, smoking) and mother’s cognitive ability, and assessed robustness of relationships across outcomes and alternate drinking classifications. The research found no association between light drinking and cognitive and psychosocial outcomes up to and including the age of 14, after controlling for key confounders.
The researchers state that light drinking during pregnancy was linked to higher socioeconomic advantages (e.g., mothers’ higher education, professional/managerial occupation, home ownership, cognitive scores), which together accounted for positive associations between light drinking and children’s outcomes. Mother’s cognitive ability was an especially important confounder.
Source: Light drinking during pregnancy: Social advantages explain positive correlates with child and early adolescent adjustment. A Barbuscia, J Staff, GB Ploubidis, E Fitzsimons, J Maggs, Addictive Behaviors. Volume 98, November 2019, 106003.
David van Velden MD, Dept. of Pathology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa, comments that “mothers of higher socio-economic and cognitive status have a more responsible lifestyle, and their children are exposed to better mental stimulation at childhood. This may have the most important influence on the outcomes of the study. A balanced diet and active lifestyle all contribute to the positive outcomes. To single out alcohol as a factor in outcomes in this instance is impossible. There are just too many confounders. Mothers also tend to under report their alcohol intake. Genetic profiling could also have an influence, and this has not been mentioned in the analysis”.
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