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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2013 Mar;37(3):507-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2012.01953.x. Epub 2012 Sep 13.

The effects of prenatal alcohol exposure and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder on psychopathology and behavior.

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Center for Behavioral Teratology, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA.



This study examined prevalence of psychiatric disorders and behavioral problems in children with and without prenatal alcohol exposure (AE) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Primary caregivers of 344 children (8 to 16 years, M = 12.28) completed the Computerized Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children-IV (C-DISC-4.0) and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Subjects comprised 4 groups: AE with ADHD (AE+, n = 85) and without ADHD (AE-, n = 52), and nonexposed with ADHD (ADHD, n = 74) and without ADHD (CON, n = 133). The frequency of specific psychiatric disorders, number of psychiatric disorders (comorbidity), and CBCL behavioral scores were examined using chi-square and analysis of covariance techniques.


Clinical groups had greater frequency of all psychiatric disorders, except for anxiety, where the AE- and CON groups did not differ. There was a combined effect of AE and ADHD on conduct disorder. For comorbidity, children with ADHD had increased psychiatric disorders regardless of AE, which did not have an independent effect on comorbidity. For CBCL scores, there were significant main effects of AE and ADHD on all scores and significant AE × ADHD interactions for Withdrawn/Depressed, Somatic Complaints, Attention, and all Summary scores. There was a combined effect of AE and ADHD on Externalizing, Total Problems, and Attention Problems.


Findings indicate that ADHD diagnosis elevates children's risk of psychiatric diagnoses, regardless of AE, but suggest an exacerbated relation between AE and ADHD on conduct disorder and externalizing behavioral problems in children. Findings affirm a poorer behavioral prognosis for alcohol-exposed children with ADHD and suggest that more than 1 neurobehavioral profile may exist for individuals with AE.

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