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The association of prenatal alcohol exposure on the cognitive abilities and behaviour profiles of 4-year-old children

Researchers in South Africa examined the association of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) on cognitive abilities and behaviour profiles of 4-yearold children.

A cohort of 500 children from the Safe Passage Study in Cape Town, South Africa were included. Cognition and behavioural profiles were assessed. Children with and without PAE were compared. Mean scores were compared and results were adjusted for confounding factors.

The Kaufman Assessment Battery for children measured intellectual and mental ability; the NEPSY-II instrument assessed neurocognitive performance. The caregiver completed the Preschool Child Behaviour checklist to rate the child’s problem behaviours and competencies.

Two hundred children had no PAE, 117 children had mild to moderate PAE (with no binge episodes), 113 children had heavy PAE (with one or two binge episodes), and 70 children had very heavy PAE (with three or more binge episodes). Women who binge drank had significantly higher rates of smoking, marijuana use, and methamphetamine use. Low to moderate PAE had no effect on cognitive ability and behaviour. Very heavy PAE was associated with problems performing simultaneous as well as sequential functions, lower scores in the language and sensorimotor domain, and more attention and pervasive developmental problems.

The study found that low to moderate PAE was not associated with cognitive processing or developmental problems. Women who had many binge drinking episodes during pregnancy were the most at risk for cognitive processing, neurocognitive, and behaviour problems in their children at 4 years of age.

Source: The association of prenatal alcohol exposure on the cognitive abilities and behaviour profiles of 4-year-old children: a prospective cohort study. Cluver CA, Charles W, van der Merwe C, Bezuidenhout H, Nel D, Groenewald C, Brink L, Hesselman S, Bergman L, Odendaal H. An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, first published: 16 September 2019.

doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.15947
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