Developmental and behavioral consequences of prenatal cocaine exposure: a review

J Perinatol. 2012 Nov;32(11):819-28. doi: 10.1038/jp.2012.90. Epub 2012 Jul 12.


Substance use among pregnant women continues to be a major public health concern, posing potential risk to their drug-exposed children as well as burdens on society. This review is intended to discuss the most recent literature regarding the association between in utero cocaine exposure and developmental and behavioral outcomes from birth through adolescence across various domains of functioning (growth, neurobiology, intelligence, academic achievement, language, executive functioning, behavioral regulation and psychopathology). In addition, methodological limitations, associated biological, sociodemographic and environmental risk factors and future directions in this area of research are discussed. Given the large number of exposed children in the child welfare system and the increased need for medical, mental health and special education services within this population, more definitively documenting associations between prenatal cocaine exposure and later child outcomes is essential in order to be able to prospectively address the many significant public health, economic and public policy implications.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology
  • Child Development
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Education, Special
  • Executive Function
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Language
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects* / blood
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects* / physiopathology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects* / rehabilitation


  • Hydrocortisone