Light drinking versus abstinence in pregnancy – behavioural and cognitive outcomes in 7-year-old children: a longitudinal cohort study

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  • The copyright line in this article was changed on 22 July 2014 after original online publication.

Abstract

Objective

To assess whether light drinking in pregnancy is linked to unfavourable developmental outcomes in children.

Design

Prospective population-based cohort.

Setting

UK.

Population

Ten thousand five hundred and thirty-four 7-year-olds.

Methods

Quasi-experimental using propensity score matching (PSM) to compare children born to light (up to 2 units per week) and non-drinkers.

Main outcome measures

Behavioural difficulties rated by parents and teachers; cognitive test scores for reading, maths and spatial skills.

Results

Ordinary least squares (OLS) regression and PSM analyses are presented. For behavioural difficulties, unadjusted estimates for percentage standard deviation (SD) score differences ranged from 2 to 14%. On adjustment for potential confounders, differences were attenuated, with a loss of statistical significance, except for teacher-rated boys' difficulties. For boys, parent-rated behavioural difficulties: unadjusted, −11.5; OLS, −4.3; PSM, −6.8; teacher-rated behavioural difficulties: unadjusted, −13.9; OLS, −9.6; PSM, −10.8. For girls, parent-rated behavioural difficulties: unadjusted, −9.6; OLS, −2.9; PSM, −4.5; teacher-rated behavioural difficulties: unadjusted, −2.4; OLS, 4.9; PSM, 3.9. For cognitive test scores, unadjusted estimates for differences ranged between 12 and 21% of an SD score for reading, maths and spatial skills. After adjustment for potential confounders, estimates were reduced, but remained statistically significantly different for reading and for spatial skills in boys. For boys, reading: unadjusted, 20.9; OLS, 8.3; PSM, 7.3; maths: unadjusted, 14.7; OLS, 5.0; PSM, 6.5; spatial skills: unadjusted, 16.2; OLS, 7.6; PSM, 8.1. For girls, reading: unadjusted, 11.6; OLS, −0.3; PSM, −0.5; maths: unadjusted, 12.9; OLS, 4.3; PSM, 3.9; spatial skills: unadjusted, 16.2; OLS, 7.7; PSM, 6.4.

Conclusion

The findings suggest that light drinking during pregnancy is not linked to developmental problems in mid-childhood. These findings support current UK Department of Health guidelines on drinking during pregnancy.

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