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Keywords:

  • Attention;
  • Prenatal Alcohol;
  • Prenatal Exposure;
  • Maternal Age

Background:  Prenatal exposure to alcohol has a variety of morphologic and neurobehavioral consequences, yet more than 10% of women continue to drink during pregnancy, placing their offspring at risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Identification of at-risk pregnancies has been difficult, in part, because the presence and severity of FASD are influenced by factors beyond the pattern of alcohol consumption. Establishing maternal characteristics, such as maternal age, that increase the risk of FASD is critical for targeted pregnancy intervention.

Methods:  We examined the moderating effect of maternal age on measures of attention in 462 children from a longitudinal cohort born to women with known alcohol consumption levels (absolute ounces of alcohol per day at conception) who were recruited during pregnancy. Analyses examined the impact of binge drinking, as average ounces of absolute alcohol per drinking day. Smoking and use of cocaine, marijuana, and opiates were also assessed. At 7 years of age, the children completed the Continuous Performance Test, and their teachers completed the Achenbach Teacher Report Form.

Results:  After controlling for covariates, stepwise multiple regression analyses revealed a negative relation between levels of prenatal binge drinking and several measures of attention. The interaction between alcohol consumption and maternal age was also significant, indicating that the impact of maternal binge drinking during pregnancy on attention was greater among children born to older drinking mothers.

Conclusion:  These findings are consistent with previous findings that children born to older alcohol-using women have more deleterious effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on other neurobehavioral outcomes.