|Vol. 6, No. 4, 2000 Page 7|
Prenatal cocaine exposure in-creases the risk of behavior problems in young male school children, according to a recent study by Virginia Delaney-Black and colleagues.
The researchers evaluated 471 children, 201 of whom were exposed before birth to cocaine. Teachers blind to the children's prenatal cocaine exposure used the Achenbach Teacher's Report Form (TRF) to rate the children's externalizing behaviors (aggression, delinquency) and internalizing behaviors (anxiety, depression, withdrawal, and physical complaints).
"Boys prenatally exposed to cocaine were twice as likely as controls to have clinically significant scores for externalizing (25 percent vs. 13 percent) and delinquent behavior (22 percent vs. 11 percent)," the researchers say. Even after controlling for gender, prenatal exposure to alcohol or tobacco, and home environment, the cocaine-exposed children showed a high proportion of externalizing behaviors compared to internalizing behaviors.
The researchers add that children exposed to alcohol also exhibited higher delinquency scores, increased attention problems, and higher overall TRF scores. Cigarette smoking did not contribute to an increased score on either the total TRF or any subscales.
The researchers' findings are consistent with a research review by Barry Kosofsky (see related article, Crime Times, 1998, Vol. 4, No. 4, Page 6), which concluded that children exposed to cocaine in utero exhibit "subtle but profoundly important behavioral deficits."
"Teacher-assessed behavior of children prenatally exposed to cocaine," V. Delaney-Black, C. Covington, T. Templin, J. Ager, B. Nordstrom-Klee, S. Martier, L. Leddick, R. H. Czerwinski, and R. J. Sokol, Pediatrics, Vol. 106, No. 4, October 2000, pp. 782-791. Address: V. Delaney-Black, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202.