PYSC 103

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PYSC 103

Chen, J. (2012). Maternal Alcohol Use during Pregnancy, Birth Weight and Early Behavioral Outcomes. Alcohol And Alcoholism47(6), 649-656.


The aim of the study is to investigate infant birth weight and early behavioral outcomes as a result of maternal alcohol use during pregnancy. This goes hand in hand with investigating the inherent differential susceptibility as a result of the parental alcohol exposure.


The aspect of drinking while pregnant has become a major public health issue and there is significant public attention towards the issue in many countries. A 2005 report by CDC showed that 1 in 8 women tend to consume alcohol during their pregnancy. As a result, more than half a million infants are exposed to prenatal alcohol consumption. This makes it paramount to understand the consequences that such exposure would bring. Some previous studies have shown that prenatal alcohol exposure results in varied behavioral problems among children. However, despite the studies providing good evidence, there is a need for more methodologically rigorous studies to help understand the impacts of prenatal alcohol exposure comprehensively.


The subjects in the study were children born to women that participated in the NLSY (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth)between 1986 and 2000. Through the use of the sibling fixed-effects model, the study analyzed 1,618 subjects. The use of this model makes it possible to adjust for social, maternal and genetic confounders when analyzing the alcohol prenatal exposure effects. The mothers whose children were involved in the study were classified as heavy drinkers, light-to-moderate drinkers, and non-drinkers. This was based on the frequency of alcohol consumed while they were pregnant. The modified Rothbart Infant Behavior Questionnaire was used to assess the behavioral outcomes of the infants. The questionnaire measures fearfulness, difficultness and positive mood dimensions of behavioral outcomes.


From the estimates obtained from the model, there is no identifiable association between low birth weight and light-to-moderate drinking. However, for the mothers that drunk heavily while pregnant, they had an increased 10% chance of giving birth to infants that had low birth weight. It was also evident that prenatal alcohol exposure was positively associated with infant difficultness. However, there was no positive correlation with fearfulness or positive mood. An increase in infant difficulties was associated with both heavy and light-to-moderate drinking.


The findings show that during pregnancy, maternal alcohol consumption possesses a risk factor for behavioral outcomes in infants. Birth weight is not as vulnerable to light-to-moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy compared to behavioral outcomes. All in all, the study had several limitations. To begin with, the subjects in the study only included children that were born between 1986 and 2000. This sample consists of infants that are born to relatively older mothers. Another limitation of the study is that children without siblings may not be generalized from the sibling-based analyses. This is coupled with the limitation that the results obtained from the study may not generalize to different societies and countries. There is also the limitation of the fact that the alcohol consumption being assessed is only based on frequency but the amount of alcohol consumed is not included. Nevertheless, the findings in the study send an important message to the general public given a substantial number do not believe that light-to-moderate drinking can be hazardous during pregnancy.

Critical Thinking

The research fits well with the prenatal development period. This is where development begins after conception has occurred. All the body structures are in the process of forming hence making the mother’s health a primary concern. As a result, it is good to take note of factors that can result in birth defects. The research findings in this study are likely to change people’s perception of prenatal alcohol consumption given the negative effects that it can have. Understanding the inherent consequences that prenatal alcohol exposure poses to children could also be vital for the individuals determining policy.











Chen, J. (2012). Maternal Alcohol Use during Pregnancy, Birth Weight and Early Behavioral Outcomes. Alcohol And Alcoholism47(6), 649-656.