Paternal contribution to fetal alcohol syndrome

Addict Biol. 2004 Jun;9(2):127-33; discussion 135-6. doi: 10.1080/13556210410001716980.


Maternal alcohol use during pregnancy is associated with a wide range of adverse outcomes for the child. Many women who drink during pregnancy also have male partners who abuse alcohol. Existing data on paternal effects of alcohol abuse during the preconceptual period and at the time of conception are reviewed. Epidemiological data offer some support for a paternal influence on birth weight, congenital heart defects, and some evidence of mild cognitive impairments. Animal data have demonstrated decreased litter size, increased prevalence of low birth weight fetuses and mixed data on risk of malformations. Increased susceptibility to Pseudomonas bacterial infection has been reported. Cognitive and behavioral findings are the most robust effects. These include learning and memory deficits, hyperactivity, and poor stress tolerance. Multiple causal mechanisms for a paternal effect have been suggested, but none seems satisfactory to explain all findings. Further research is needed on paternal effects in animals and human populations. The results of this research may influence prevention activities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / etiology
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology
  • Parents*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects