Vol. 8, No. 1, 2002 Page 1&4

Even light maternal drinking increases risk for delinquency

Mothers who indulge in even a few drinks during pregnancy may be putting their offspring at increased risk for behavior problems, according to a study by Beena Sood and colleagues.

The researchers collected data on more than 500 women receiving prenatal care at an urban university clinic. When the women's children were six to seven years of age, Sood et al. tested them using the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).

Not surprisingly, maternal alcohol use during pregnancy was linked to aggression, delinquency, and attention problems in the children. What did surprise the researchers, however, was the discovery that even very light drinking was a strong risk factor for behavior problems.

"Significantly," the researchers say, children with low levels of prenatal alcohol exposure—equivalent to an average of one cocktail per week across pregnancy—were three times as likely to have delinquent behavior scores in the clinical range." This finding remained true even after the researchers controlled for prenatal factors such as maternal age, education, or use of cigarettes or drugs, and for post-natal factors such as ongoing maternal substance abuse, family structure, maternal mental illness, socioeconomic status, exposure to violence, and the children's blood lead levels.

The researchers conclude, "We would reinforce the Surgeon General's recommendation that pregnant women should abstain from drinking during pregnancy."


"Prenatal alcohol exposure and childhood behavior at age 6 to 7 years: I. dose- response effect," B. Sood, V. Delaney-Black, C. Covington, B. Nordstrom-Klee, J. Ager, T. Templin, J. Janisse, S. Martier, and R. J. Sokol, Pediatrics, Vol. 108, No. 2, August 2001, E34.


"Even small amounts of alcohol in pregnancy harmful," Keith Mulvihill, Reuters Health, August 7, 2001.

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