Prognostic factors for long-term outcome in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Res Dev Disabil. 2023 May;136:104481. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2023.104481. Epub 2023 Mar 14.


Introduction: Known protective factors for long-term outcome in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are early diagnosis and a stable, non-violent supportive environment. Which factors contribute to the stability of care is not yet known. Thus, the aim of our study was to evaluate whether the age at diagnosis and the complexity of brain dysfunction play a role for placement changes in children with FASD.

Materials and methods: An online survey was conducted among caregivers and professionals caring for children with FASD and seeking help at the German FASD Competence Centre Bavaria (N = 232). The survey collected information about diagnosis, brain dysfunctions, behavioural factors influencing everyday life and changes of placement. The association of timing of diagnosis, brain dysfunctions and neurobehavioral impairment with changes of placement (<2 vs. 2 or more changes) was evaluated via logistic regression models.

Results: About 50% of the children received their diagnosis of FASD after the age of 5 years. The complexity of brain dysfunctions in children with FASD affecting everyday life was high. 15% of the children experienced four or more changes of placement. Children with more neuropsychological impairments experienced more changes of placement (OR: 2.53, 95% CI: 1.36-4.71).

Conclusions: Even though our results need to be interpreted with caution due to methodological limitations such as the use of a convenience sample and limited statistical power, they imply that severely affected children with FASD experience a less stable environment. These children may therefore be at high risk for a negative prognosis. To warrant a better prognosis for the affected children, professionals urgently need to pay attention to early recognition and the complexity of neuropsychological impairments in children with FASD as well as to the support that caregivers urgently need.

Keywords: Adverse childhood events; FASD; Fetal alcohol syndrome; Living conditions; Outcome; Protective factors.

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Prognosis
  • Recognition, Psychology