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Keywords:

  • fetal alcohol syndrome;
  • fetal alcohol spectrum disorders;
  • psychiatric conditions;
  • prenatal alcohol exposure

Abstract

Since the identification of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) over 35 years ago, mounting evidence about the impact of maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy has prompted increased attention to the link between prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) and a constellation of developmental disabilities that are characterized by physical, cognitive, and behavioral impairments. These disabilities include a continuum of developmental disorders known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Longitudinal studies suggest that individuals with FASDs are at a greatly increased risk for adverse long-term outcomes, including mental health problems and poor social adjustment. This review summarizes the existing literature on mental health outcomes for individuals with PAE across the lifespan, including findings in infancy and early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence and early adulthood. Research on the psychiatric disabilities suffered by individuals with FASDs throughout development highlights the need for training of mental health professionals in the identification and the provision of specific treatments to address the unique features of this developmental disability since early identification and treatment have been demonstrated to be protective against more serious secondary disabilities. It is hoped that with greater awareness of the mental health problems experienced by individuals with FASDs, these individuals can receive appropriate and early treatment resulting in more adaptive and rewarding lives. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc. Dev Disabil Res Rev 2009;15:225–234.