Drinking during pregnancy decreases word attack and arithmetic scores on standardized tests: adolescent data from a population-based prospective study

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1994 Apr;18(2):248-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.1994.tb00009.x.


Women (1529) were interviewed in midpregnancy, and a cohort of their children has been examined at various ages. The two standardized tests presented herein are part of a large battery of tests administered when the children were 14 years old. "Word Attack" (n = 462) measures phonological processing on a task involving the reading of pseudowords in nontimed performance. "Arithmetic" (n = 191) measures auditorily processed mental computations in timed performance. Scores on both tests were associated with prenatal alcohol exposure in a dose-dependent fashion. These effects were robust when considered in relation to a wide variety of potentially confounding variables, such as prenatal exposure to tobacco and other drugs, sociodemographic characteristics, and traumatic postnatal events. A variety of alcohol scores were related to these two performance measures, but those involving a massing of drinks on a given occasion had the strongest association. The higher the average number of drinks/occasion, the poorer the offspring performance on tasks thought to underlie numerical problem solving and reading proficiency. Earlier reports of prenatal, alcohol-related neurobehavioral deficits in childhood have now been extended into adolescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / psychology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Learning Disabilities / diagnosis*
  • Learning Disabilities / psychology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Phonetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Problem Solving
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reading*
  • Washington


  • Ethanol