Prenatal exposure to alcohol and marijuana: effects on motor development of preschool children

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1996 May;20(3):455-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.1996.tb01075.x.


Gross motor development of preschool children prenatally exposed to alcohol and marijuana was assessed as part of a longitudinal study. Most mothers in the study were light to moderate users and discontinued or decreased use of alcohol and marijuana after the first trimester of pregnancy. The women were of lower socioeconomic status, half of the sample was African-American, and most were single. Gross motor development was evaluated with balance and ball-handling items at 3 years. Balance items included walking on a line, walking on a balance beam, standing on one foot, standing on tiptoes, and stair climbing and descent. Ball-handling items included catching, throwing, and kicking a ball. Refusal to perform items was also recorded. Prenatal alcohol and marijuana exposure did not negatively affect gross motor development. The composite score on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, age at assessment, gender, and examiner were significant predictors of gross motor performance and of refusal to participate in the balance items. The ponderal index, number of siblings, current income, examiner, current maternal use of tranquilizers, and first trimester exposure to amphetamines were also significant predictors of balance skills. Gender and number of hospitalizations predicted refusal to participate in balance items, whereas hearing and vision problems predicted refusal on ball-handling items. The components of timing, speed, and fine motor control have not been addressed in this study, and therefore it is premature to conclude that there is no impact of prenatal substance use on motor development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / psychology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology
  • Motor Skills / drug effects
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Postural Balance / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Psychomotor Disorders / diagnosis*