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Research pinpoints devastating impacts of fetal alcohol syndrome

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Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are affected by a range of problems, including anxiety, depression, aggression, delinquency and diminished learning capacity a new review of evidence reveals.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, the research is the first to comprehensively describe behaviors in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) observed by teachers and parents using an empirically based assessment system.

See Also: Alcohol exposure during pregnancy affects multiple generations

"The finding highlights the need for strategies for early intervention, both to help children with self-regulation and to support teachers and caregivers in managing behavior at school and at home," said the University of Sydney's Professor Elizabeth Elliott, study co-author.

Researchers noted three main kinds of behavioral problems in children with FASD:

  • ♦ "Internalizing" behaviors such as, anxiety, withdrawal or depression
  • ♦ "Externalizing" behavior, such as aggression, delinquency
  • ♦ Other problems, such as problems with social skills, thought processing and attention

"FASD is the tragic result of alcohol use in pregnancy and is characterized by birth defects and neurodevelopmental problems," said Professor Elliott. "Worldwide, including in Australia, FASD is increasingly recognised by health professionals, teachers and the criminal justice system as a cause of difficult behavior, learning problems, and contact with the justice system."

"Behaviors seen in FASD impair social interactions, academic performance, and mental health. Without appropriate assessment and treatment, these children experience lifelong difficulties with mental ill health, substance abuse and unemployment and many are unable to live independently."

Learn More: Prenatal alcohol exposure alters development of brain function

Academics from the Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health at The University of Sydney (Sydney Medical School), undertook an exhaustive review of published literature reporting behaviors in children with FASD and prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE).

All studies using the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment (ASEBA): School-Age Forms were included. This widely used and validated assessment tool includes the Child Behaviour Checklist, the Teacher Report Form and the Youth Self-Report form.

The study's lead author, Dr Tracey Tsang, said, "Our findings allow us to create a behavioral profile for FASD based on multiple studies from around the world and will inform the assessment and treatment of FASD."

Note: Material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.

University of Sydney   press release


Tsang TW et al. Prenatal Alcohol Exposure, FASD, and Child Behavior: A Meta-analysis. Pediatrics, Published March 2016.