Prenatal alcohol exposure and academic achievement at age six: a nonlinear fit

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1996 Jun;20(4):763-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.1996.tb01684.x.


This is a report on the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on the academic achievement of children at 6 years of age. In this longitudinal study, women were interviewed at the end of each trimester of pregnancy, at delivery, and at 8, 18, 36, and 72 months postpartum. The women were of lower socioeconomic status, high school-educated, and moderate users of alcohol. The offspring received age-appropriate physical and developmental assessments at each follow-up. Linear regression and nonlinear curve fitting were used to investigate the nature and shape of the relationship between prenatal alcohol exposure and achievement. In addition, the role of child IQ in this relationship was explored. Alcohol exposure during the second trimester predicted deficits in each of the three subtests of the Wide Range Achievement Test-Revised (WRAT-R): reading, spelling, and arithmetic. The relationship was partially reduced by the addition of IQ to the model, but prenatal alcohol exposure still predicted significant deficits in achievement, even after controlling for IQ. Tests for the shape of the relationship demonstrated that the effect of prenatal exposure on the arithmetic subtest of the WRAT-R was a linear or dose-response relationship. By contrast, the relationships between prenatal alcohol exposure and performance on the spelling and reading subtests of the WRAT-R were better modeled as threshold effects. The thresholds for both were approximately 1 drink/day in the second trimester.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / psychology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Learning Disabilities / diagnosis
  • Learning Disabilities / psychology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Pregnancy
  • Reading
  • Verbal Learning