Prenatal Exposure to Alcohol and Marijuana: Effects on Motor Development of Preschool Children

Authors

  • Lynette S. Chandler,

    1. University of Puget Sound (L.S.C.), Tacoma, Washington
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  • Gale A. Richardson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (G.A.R., N.L.D.), University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
      Reprint requests: Gale A. Richardson, Ph.D., Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Program in Epidemiology, 3811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.
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  • Jere D. Gallagher,

    1. Department of Instruction and Learning (J.D.G.), University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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  • Nancy L. Day

    1. Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (G.A.R., N.L.D.), University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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  • This study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Grant AA05460 to N.L.D.), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (Grant AA06666 to N.L.D.), and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (Grant H133P00008; L. Katz, Program Director). An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, March 1993, New Orleans, LA.

Reprint requests: Gale A. Richardson, Ph.D., Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Program in Epidemiology, 3811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.

Abstract

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.

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