Substance Abuse During Pregnancy Not Linked To Poor Academic Achievements
The on-line journal of Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies has recently published the results of a new study conducted by a team of researchers from Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health along with Boston Medical center. This study shows that intrauterine exposure to cocaine, tobacco and marijuana does not affect the children’s academic achievement test scores. On the other hand, children exposed to alcohol during their mother’s pregnancy, with no evidence of fetal alcohol syndrome, received lower test scores especially in math, reasoning and spelling.
Intrauterine exposure to cocaine was thought to have harmful effects on the children’s attention, control and abstract reasoning, thus lowering the children’s academic performance. The question was whether this was the result of the cocaine exposure itself, or if the exposure to other drugs which are often associated to cocaine consumption such as alcohol, tobacco and marijuana may independently affect children’s academic abilities.
The study focused on the academic achievement scores of 119 individuals: 11-year-old children in an urban area, with low-income. These children were enrolled in a prospective longitudinal study concerning intrauterine exposure to cocaine. After comparing the academic achievement scores (Wechsler Individual 15 Achievement Test-Second Edition, WIAT-II) the result was that the exposure to cocaine, marijuana or tobacco during pregnancy is not correlated with low test scores. Lead author Ruth Rose-Jacobs, ScD, associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University Schools of Medicine and a research scientist at Boston Medical Center said: ”Our results are consistent with growing evidence that intrauterine exposure to cocaine does not independently predict poorer achievement scores in school-age children exposed to multiple other substance exposures and psychosocial stressors.”
Regarding the intrauterine exposure to alcohol, the association with low academic achievement test scores is significant because the analyses had controlled for other substances. Also, all the children enrolled in the study did not have evidence of fetal alcohol syndrome that could have influenced the test scores.
Low test scores in children exposed to alcohol in the fetal period are of potential educational importance. Children’s Depression Inventory explains the relationship between intrauterine alcohol exposure and the achievements scores is this sample: the depressive syndrome in children could be a cause or a result of achievement difficulties. “Study finding suggest the children with histories of even low-level of intrauterine alcohol exposure who experience school difficulties should be evaluated particularly for arithmetic skills and depressive symptoms and offered enhanced educational methods/interventions tailored to their needs,” added Rose-Jacobs.