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Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2011 Jan-Feb;33(1):69-77. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2010 Jun 30.

Prenatal cocaine exposure: Effects on mother- and teacher-rated behavior problems and growth in school-age children.

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University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


In this longitudinal study of prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE), school-age physical and cognitive development and behavioral characteristics were examined, while controlling for other factors that affect child development. At this follow-up phase, children were on average 7.2 years old, and their caregivers were 33.7 years old, had 12.5 years of education, and 48% were African American. During the first trimester, 20% of the women were frequent cocaine users (≥1 line/day). First trimester cocaine exposure predicted decreased weight and height at 7 years. There was no significant relationship between PCE and the cognitive and neuropsychological measures. Third trimester cocaine use predicted more total and externalizing behavior problems on the Child Behavior Checklist (Achenbach, 1991 [3]) and the Teacher Report Form (Achenbach, 1991 [4]), and increased activity, inattention, and impulsivity on the Routh Activity (Routh et al., 1974 [67]) and SNAP scales (Pelham and Bender, 1982 [55]). Children who were exposed to cocaine throughout pregnancy had more mother- and teacher-rated behavior problems compared to children of women who stopped using early in pregnancy or who never used cocaine prenatally. These detrimental effects of PCE on behavior are consistent with other reports in the literature and with the hypothesis that PCE affects development through changes in neurotransmitter systems. These school-age behaviors may be precursors of later adolescent behavior problems.

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