Higher functioning children with prenatal alcohol exposure: Is there a specific neurocognitive profile?

  • Quattlebaum J
  • O'Connor M
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Recent attempts to identify a neurocognitive profile of children with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) have led to an emerging "generalized deficit" conceptualization marked by diffuse information processing and integration difficulties as opposed to a specific profile. This study examines whether this conceptualization can be extended to higher functioning children with PAE who are without intellectual disability and addresses several limitations of previous research. One hundred twenty-five children aged 6-12 years with social skills deficits, 97 of whom met diagnostic criteria for a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), underwent a comprehensive, multi-informant assessment of neurocognitive, emotional, social, behavioral, and adaptive functioning. Multivariate analyses of variance examined differences in functioning between the PAE group and a nonexposed comparison group with and without controlling for child IQ. Results indicated that the PAE group returned significantly poorer scores than the nonexposed group on every construct assessed, including executive functioning, attention, working/visuospatial memory, linguistic abstraction, adaptive behavior, emotional/behavioral functioning, and social cognition. These differences largely maintained after controlling for IQ and were similar regardless of informant, although teachers reported somewhat fewer group differences. Within the PAE group, no differences were found across FASD subtypes. These results provide evidence extending the emerging generalized deficit conceptualization of children with PAE to those higher functioning individuals without global intellectual disability.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure

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  • Justin L. Quattlebaum

  • Mary J. O'Connor

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