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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 Jun;846(1):277-288. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1998.tb09744.x.

Prenatal Coke: What's Behind the Smoke?: Prenatal Cocaine/Alcohol Exposure and School-Age Outcomes: The SCHOO-BE Experiencea.

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Department of Pediatrics; Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USADepartment of Obstetrics; Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USASchool of Medicine; College of Nursing; Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USADepartment of Psychology, College of Science; Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.


Despite media reports and educators' concerns, little substantive data have been published to document or refute the emerging reports that children prenatally exposed to cocaine have serious behavioral problems in school. Recent pilot data from this institution have indeed demonstrated teacher-reported problem behaviors following prenatal cocaine exposure after controlling for the effects of prenatal alcohol use and cigarette exposure. Imperative in the study of prenatal exposure and child outcome is an acknowledgment of the influence of other control factors such as postnatal environment, secondary exposures, and parenting issues. We report preliminary evaluation from a large ongoing historical prospective study of prenatal cocaine exposure on school-age outcomes. The primary aim of this NIDA-funded study is to determine if a relationship exists between prenatal cocaine/alcohol exposures and school behavior and, if so, to determine if the relationship is characterized by a dose-response relationship. A secondary aim evaluates the relationship between prenatal cocaine/alcohol exposures and school achievement. Both relationships will be assessed in a black, urban sample of first grade students using multivariate statistical techniques for confounding as well as mediating and moderating prenatal and postnatal variables. A third aim is to evaluate the relationship between a general standardized classroom behavioral measure and a tool designed to tap the effects thought to be specific to prenatal cocaine exposure. This interdisciplinary research team can address these aims because of the existence of a unique, prospectively collected Perinatal Database, funded in part by NIAAA and NICHD. The database includes repeated measures of cocaine, alcohol, and other substances for over 3,500 births since 1986. Information from this database is combined with information from the database of one of the largest public school systems in the nation. The final sample will be composed of over 600 first grade students for whom the independent variables, prenatal cocaine/alcohol exposures, were prospectively assessed and quantified at the university maternity center. After informed consent, the primary dependent variable, school behavior, is assessed, using the PROBS-14 (a teacher consensus developed instrument), the Child Behavior Check List, and the Conners' Teacher Rating Scale. The secondary dependent measure, school achievement, is measured by the Metropolitan Achievement Text and the Test of Early Reading Ability. Control variables, such as the environment and parenting, are measured by several instruments aimed at capturing the child and family ecology since birth. All analyses will be adjusted as appropriate for prospectively gathered control variables such as perinatal risk, neonatal risk, and other prenatal drug and cigarette exposures. Further adjustment will be made for postnatal social risk factors which may influence outcome. Of particular concern are characteristics of the home (adaptation of HOME), parent (depression, stress), and neighborhood (violence exposure). Finally, postnatal exposure to lead and other drugs is being considered.

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