Impact of moderate prenatal alcohol exposure on problem behaviors in preschool and school children stronger effects in disadvantaged populations? Results from the KiGGS study.


Data on the relation between moderate prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) and behavioral disorders are inconsistent, and this raises new questions. We examined (1) the association between moderate PAE and problem behaviors and (2) whether these associations differed by levels of socioeconomic status (SES), fetal smoke exposure, or exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Data were taken from the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS) study. Parents evaluated children’s behaviors using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Results showed a slight, but insignificant, increase of problem behaviors in children with moderate PAE. In 3- to 6-year-olds, PAE had a stronger effect on hyperactivity/inattention in combination with fetal smoke exposure (odds ratio = 2.82), than did PAE alone. Effects were not stronger in low-SES children, but they were stronger in children with ETS. We conclude that moderate PAE might have adverse effects on neurodevelopment, with stronger effects in disadvantaged populations. To confirm our preliminary findings, further research should be conducted.