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Early Hum Dev. 2001 Sep;64(2):91-103.

Developmental outcomes and environmental correlates of very low birthweight, cocaine-exposed infants.

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Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Suite 250-A, The Triangle Building, 11400 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.


Fetal cocaine exposure may have differentially adverse effects on developmental outcomes of very low birthweight (VLBW) infants. As part of a longitudinal study, 31 cocaine-positive very low birthweight infants, and age, race and socioeconomic status matched VLBW controls enrolled at birth were followed. Neonatal maternal-child interactions, concurrent maternal psychological characteristics and environmental factors conceptualized as important for child outcome were assessed as well as standard developmental outcomes at 3 years. In the neonatal period, cocaine-exposed VLBW infants who remained in maternal custody tended to be rated as less responsive and their mothers as less nurturing, less emotionally available and with a tendency to use more maladaptive coping mechanisms than nonexposed VLBW infants. At follow-up, cocaine-exposed VLBW children were delayed in cognitive, motor and language development compared to controls. Almost half (45%) of the exposed children scored in the range of mental retardation compared to 16% of the comparison VLBW children. The persistent cognitive, motor and language delays of the cocaine-exposed VLBW children, combined with the poorer behavioral interactions of cocaine-using women with their infants in the neonatal period, indicate a need for increased developmental surveillance of cocaine-exposed VLBW infants with a focus on maternal drug treatment and parenting interventions.

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