Objectives: The purposes of this investigation were to determine the frequencies of and associations between different neurodevelopmental disorders and to study the potential lasting effects of alcohol on children adopted from eastern Europe.
Methods: In a population-based, prospective, observational, multidisciplinary, cross-sectional, cohort study of 71 children adopted from eastern Europe, children were assessed 5 years after adoption, from pediatric, neuropsychological, and ophthalmologic perspectives.
Results: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, that is, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), partial FAS, and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders, were identified for 52% of children; FAS was found for 30%, partial FAS for 14%, and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders for 9%. Alcohol-related birth defects were found for 11% of children, all of whom also were diagnosed as having FAS. Mental retardation or significant cognitive impairment was found for 23% of children, autism for 9%, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder for 51%, and developmental coordination disorder for 34%.
Conclusions: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and neurodevelopmental disorders were common in this long-term follow-up study of children adopted from orphanages in eastern Europe. Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy has long-lasting adverse effects, causing structural, behavioral, and cognitive damage despite a radically improved environment.