Foster placed children prenatally exposed to poly-substances--attention-related problems at ages 2 and 4 1/2

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2004 Feb;13(1):19-27. doi: 10.1007/s00787-004-0350-x.


This paper reports on a prospective, longitudinal study of children prenatally exposed to poly-substances, who were reared under minimal postnatal risk conditions. The aim of the study was to examine whether the substance-exposed group exhibited a higher level of attention-related problems than a group of age-matched, nonexposed children. The substance-exposed children (n = 42) evinced significant elevated levels of impulsivity and attention problems on the CBCL and on the ADHD rating scale at ages 2 and 4 1/2 as compared to the non-exposed peers (n = 50). The severity of the attention problems in the substance-exposed group was related to dysfunction in the area of perceptual performance and motor abilities assessed on the McCarthy scales. This finding lends support to the hypothesis of a neurological basis of the behavioral problems. The combination of attention problems and specific cognitive deficits indicates that the children exposed to poly-substances in utero had symptoms associated with ADHD/DAMP. The study suggests that even if children experience adequate care after birth, the accumulation of risk factors associated with prenatal substance exposure is still a potential contributor to impulsivity and attention-related problems in preschool children.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / chemically induced*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Foster Home Care*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Norway
  • Poverty
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Welfare
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*