Prenatal alcohol exposure and infant information processing ability

Child Dev. 1993 Dec;64(6):1706-21.


403 black, inner-city infants born to women recruited prenatally on the basis of their alcohol consumption during pregnancy were assessed on a battery focusing on information processing and complexity of play. Prenatal alcohol exposure was not related to visual recognition memory or cross-modal transfer of information but was associated with longer fixation duration, a measure indicative of slower, less efficient information processing; lower scores on elicited play; and longer periods of toy exploration, possibly also due to slower cognitive processing. The effects on processing speed and elicited play were dose-dependent and not attributable to maternal depression, parental intellectual stimulation, other prenatal drug exposure, or postpartum maternal drinking. The processing speed deficit is consistent with deficits in older children prenatally exposed to alcohol; the present study is the first to identify slower cognitive processing in infancy and in tasks not dependent on motoric proficiency.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn / physiology*
  • Language Tests
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Mothers
  • Play and Playthings
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Vocabulary


  • Ethanol