Prenatal alcohol exposure and ability, academic achievement, and school functioning in adolescence: a longitudinal follow-up

J Pediatr Psychol. Jan-Feb 2006;31(1):116-26. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsj029. Epub 2005 Apr 13.


Background: Prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with learning, behavioral, and academic problems even in children without the fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

Objective: To examine the prenatal alcohol exposure and ability, academic achievement, and school functioning in adolescence.

Methods: In a longitudinal cohort, intelligence, academic performance, and school functioning were evaluated in 265 low socioeconomic status (SES) adolescents (M age = 15.1 years), 128 prenatally exposed to alcohol, 53 controls, and 84 special education students by using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 3rd edition (WISC-III) and the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT). School records were abstracted for grade point averages (GPA), standardized achievement test scores, conduct, attendance, and special education placement.

Results: Alcohol-affected youth had significantly lower IQs than those in the other three groups.

Conclusion: Although academic achievement (WIAT scores) was most impaired in the special education group who showed lower performance over all as well as in reading and spelling, alcohol-affected youth showed significant deficits on mathematics subtests. There was no increased incidence of conduct problems in school records related to alcohol exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adolescent
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Wechsler Scales