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1.  Protective Factors Can Mitigate Behavior Problems After Prenatal Cocaine and Other Drug Exposures 
Pediatrics  2012;130(6):e1479-e1488.
We determined the role of risk and protective factors on the trajectories of behavior problems associated with high prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE)/polydrug exposure.
The Maternal Lifestyle Study enrolled 1388 children with or without PCE, assessed through age 15 years. Because most women using cocaine during pregnancy also used other substances, we analyzed for the effects of 4 categories of prenatal drug exposure: high PCE/other drugs (OD), some PCE/OD, OD/no PCE, and no PCE/no OD. Risks and protective factors at individual, family, and community levels that may be associated with behavior outcomes were entered stepwise into latent growth curve models, then replaced by cumulative risk and protective indexes, and finally by a combination of levels of risk and protective indexes. Main outcome measures were the trajectories of externalizing, internalizing, total behavior, and attention problems scores from the Child Behavior Checklist (parent).
A total of 1022 (73.6%) children had known outcomes. High PCE/OD significantly predicted externalizing, total, and attention problems when considering the balance between risk and protective indexes. Some PCE/OD predicted externalizing and attention problems. OD/no PCE also predicted behavior outcomes except for internalizing behavior. High level of protective factors was associated with declining trajectories of problem behavior scores over time, independent of drug exposure and risk index scores.
High PCE/OD is a significant risk for behavior problems in adolescence; protective factors may attenuate its detrimental effects. Clinical practice and public health policies should consider enhancing protective factors while minimizing risks to improve outcomes of drug-exposed children.
PMCID: PMC3507246  PMID: 23184114
behavior problems; cumulative risks; prenatal cocaine exposure; protective factors
2.  Externalizing Problems in Late Childhood as a Function of Prenatal Cocaine Exposure and Environmental Risk 
Journal of Pediatric Psychology  2012;38(3):296-308.
Objective To examine whether prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) predicts externalizing problems in late childhood. Methods Externalizing problems were assessed using caregiver, teacher, and child ratings and a laboratory task when children (N = 179; 74 cocaine exposed) were aged 8–10 years. PCE, environmental risk, sex, neonatal health, other prenatal exposures, and foster care history were examined as predictors of externalizing problems. Results Multiple regression analyses indicated that PCE, environmental risk, and male sex explained significant variance in externalizing problems in late childhood. Models varied by source of information. PCE predicted externalizing problems for child laboratory behavior and interacted with sex because males with PCE reported more externalizing problems. PCE did not predict caregiver or teacher ratings of externalizing problems. Conclusions The effect of PCE on externalizing problems may persist into late childhood. The findings highlight the potential importance of including child-based measures of externalizing problems in studies of prenatal exposure.
PMCID: PMC3604825  PMID: 23248347
environmental risk; externalizing problems; prenatal cocaine exposure; sex differences
3.  Predicting Caregiver-Reported Behavior Problems in Cocaine-Exposed Children at 3 Years 
Predictors of caregiver-reported behavior problems for 3-year-olds with prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) and matched controls were examined using structural equation modeling. We tested whether PCE had a direct effect on child behavior problems in a model that included other prenatal drug exposure, child sex, caregiver depression, and the quality of the child’s home environment. The sample (N = 256) was drawn from a longitudinal, prospective study of children of (predominantly crack) cocaine-using women and controls matched on race, socioeconomic status, parity, and pregnancy risk. Child Behavior Problems was modeled as a latent variable composed of the 48-item Conners’ Parent Report Scale Conduct Problem and Impulsive-Hyperactive scales and the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory Intensity scale. Caregiver depression was the only significant predictor of Child Behavior Problems. Mean levels of caregiver self-reported depression and reported child behavior problems did not differ between groups. Mean depression scores were well above the recommended clinical cutoff while mean child behavior problems scores were within normal limits. The model explained 21% of the variance in caregiver-reported child behavior problems in our sample of rural African American, low SES youngsters. Non-maternal caregivers of cocaine-exposed children had significantly lower mean depression scores and mean child behavior problems ratings for 2 of 3 scales used in the study compared to biological mothers of children with PCE and controls. For all groups, much larger proportions of children were rated as having clinically significant behavior problems than would be expected based on the prevalence of behavior problems in the general population.
PMCID: PMC3150578  PMID: 16682870
4.  Caregiver and self-report of mental health symptoms in 9-year old children with prenatal cocaine exposure 
Neurotoxicology and teratology  2011;33(5):582-591.
To assess the effect of prenatal cocaine exposure on mental health symptoms in 9-year old children controlling for potential confounders.
332 children (170 prenatally cocaine-exposed (PCE), 162 non cocaine-exposed (NCE) were assessed using self (Dominic Interactive; DI) and caregiver report (Child Behavior Checklist; CBCL).
Higher levels of PCE were associated with caregiver report of clinically elevated aggressive and delinquent behavior. With each increased unit of PCE, children were 1.3 times more likely to be rated as aggressive (OR=1.30, 95% CI: 1.02–1.67, p<0.04). For each increased unit of PCE, girls were 2 times more likely to be rated as having delinquent behavior (OR=2.08, 95% CI: 1.46–2.96, p<0.0001). PCE status was also associated with increased odds of delinquent behavior (OR=2.41; 95% CI: 1.16–4.97, p=0.02), primarily due to the increased risk among girls with PCE. While girls with PCE status were 7 times more likely than NCE girls to have delinquent behaviors (OR=7.42; 95% CI: 2.03–27.11, p<0.002) boys with PCE did not demonstrate increased risk (OR=0.98; 95% CI: 0.36–2.65, p>0.97). Foster or adoptive parents were more likely to rate their PCE children as having more thought problems, inattention, delinquent behavior, aggression, externalizing and overall problems (p<0.05) than biologic mothers or relative caregivers. Higher 2nd trimester tobacco exposure was associated with increased odds of caregiver reported anxiety (OR=1.73; 95% CI 1.06–2.81, p<0.03) and marijuana exposure increased the odds of thought problems (OR=1.68; 95% CI 1.01–2.79, p<0.05). Children with PCE self-reported fewer symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) compared to NCE children (OR=0.44, 95% CI: 0.21–0.92, p<0.03). Greater tobacco exposure was associated with increased odds of child reported ODD (OR=1.24; 95% CI 1.03–1.78, p<0.03).
Higher PCE was associated with disruptive behaviors including aggression and delinquent behavior among girls by caregiver report, but not child report. These findings highlight the need for early behavioral assessment using multiple informants in multi-risk children.
PMCID: PMC3595600  PMID: 21764256
Prenatal cocaine exposure; Mental health; Child Behavior Checklist; Dominic Interactive; Tobacco; Neurobehavioral teratology
5.  Children Who Witness Violence, and Parent Report of Children’s Behavior 
To examine how much distress children report in response to violence that they have witnessed and how this is associated with parental reports of children’s behavior.
As part of a study of in utero exposure to cocaine, children completed the Levonn interview for assessing children’s symptoms of distress in response to witnessing violence. The children’s care givers completed the Exposure to Violence Interview (EVI), a caretaker-report measure of the child’s exposure to violent events during the last 12 months. The EVI was analyzed as a 3-level variable: no exposure, low exposure, and high exposure. The caregivers also completed the Children’s Behavior Checklist (CBCL).
Of 94 six-year-old children, 58% had no exposure to violence, 36% had low exposure to violence, and 6% had high exposure to violence, according to caretaker reports. The children’s median ±SD Levonn score was 64 (SD ± 19.3). The mean (SD ± CBCL total T-score was 53 (SD ± 10.2). In multiple regression analyses with gender, low and high exposure on EVI, Levonn, and prenatal cocaine exposure status as predictors, the Levonn score explained 4.8% of total variance in children’s CBCL internalizing scores, 9.1% of the total variance in CBCL externalizing score, and 12.2% of the total variance in CBCL total score (P = .04, P = .004, and P <.001, respectively).
After accounting for the caretaker’s report of the level of the child’s exposure to violence, the child’s own report significantly increased the amount of variance in predicting child behavior problems with the CBCL. These findings indicate that clinicians and researchers should elicit children’s own accounts of exposure to violence in addition to the caretakers’ when attempting to understand children’s behavior.
PMCID: PMC2366171  PMID: 12144371
6.  Serial Pediatric Symptom Checklist Screening in Children with Prenatal Drug Exposure 
To examine screening results obtained by serial annual behavioral assessment of children with prenatal drug exposure.
The Maternal Lifestyle Study enrolled children with prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) at birth for longitudinal assessments of developmental, behavioral, and health outcomes. At 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 years of age, caregivers rated participants on the Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC). Serial PSC results were compared to an established broad-based behavioral measure at 9, 11, and 13 years. PSC results were analyzed for 1,081 children who had at least 2 annual screens during the 5-year time span. Most subjects (87%) had 4 or more annual screens rated by the same caregiver (80%). PSC scores (and Positive screens) over time were compared at different time points for those with and without PCE. Covariates, including demographic factors and exposures to certain other substances, were controlled.
Children with PCE had significantly higher scores overall, with more Positive screens for behavior problems than children without PCE. Children with PCE had more externalizing behavior problems. Children exposed to tobacco pre- and post-natally also showed higher PSC scores. Over time, PSC scores differed slightly from the 8-year scores, without clear directional trend. Earlier PSC results predicted later behavioral outcomes.
Findings of increased total PSC scores and Positive PSC screens for behavioral concerns in this group of children with prenatal substance exposure support the growing body of evidence that additional attention to identification of mental health problems may be warranted in this high-risk group.
PMCID: PMC3069136  PMID: 21200328
Behavior disorder; child behavior; mental health; screening; prenatal cocaine exposure; Pediatric Symptom Checklist
7.  Prenatal cocaine exposure: Effects on mother- and teacher-rated behavior problems and growth in school-age children 
Neurotoxicology and teratology  2010;33(1):69-77.
In this longitudinal study of prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE), school-age physical and cognitive development and behavioral characteristics were examined, while controlling for other factors that affect child development. At this follow-up phase, children were on average 7.2 years old, and their caregivers were 33.7 years old, had 12.5 years of education, and 48% were African American. During the first trimester, 20% of the women were frequent cocaine users (≥ 1 line/day). First trimester cocaine exposure predicted decreased weight and height at 7 years. There was no significant relationship between PCE and the cognitive and neuropsychological measures. Third trimester cocaine use predicted more total and externalizing behavior problems on the Child Behavior Checklist [3] and the Teacher Report Form [4], and increased activity, inattention, and impulsivity on the Routh Activity [67] and SNAP scales [55]. Children who were exposed to cocaine throughout pregnancy had more mother- and teacher-rated behavior problems compared to children of women who stopped using early in pregnancy or who never used cocaine prenatally. These detrimental effects of PCE on behavior are consistent with other reports in the literature and with the hypothesis that PCE affects development through changes in neurotransmitter systems. These school-age behaviors may be precursors of later adolescent behavior problems.
PMCID: PMC3026056  PMID: 20600846
prenatal cocaine exposure; school age; growth; cognitive development; behavior problems
8.  Comparison of 12-Year-Old Children with Prenatal Exposure to Cocaine and Non-Exposed Controls on Caregiver Ratings of Executive Function 
Journal of youth and adolescence  2013;43(1):10.1007/s10964-013-9927-3.
Differences in caregiver reported executive function in 12-year-old children who were prenatally exposed to cocaine (PCE) compared to children who were not prenatally exposed to cocaine (NCE) were assessed. One hundred and sixty-nine PCE and 169 NCE, primarily African-American, low socioeconomic status children participated in a prospective longitudinal study. The Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) Parent Form was administered. Two broadband BRIEF scores (Behavioral Regulation Index (BRI) and Metacognition Index (MI)) and a summary Global Executive Composite (GEC) were computed. Multiple and logistic regression analyses were used to assess the effects of amount of PCE on executive function, controlling for covariates including caregiver (rater) psychological distress, child’s gender and other prenatal drug exposure variables. After adjustment for covariates, amount of PCE was associated with the GEC and two MI subscales, Plan/Organize and Monitor, with heavier exposure associated with more problems of executive function. An amount of PCE by gender interaction revealed amount of PCE effects in other remaining subscales of the MI (Initiate, Working Memory, and Organization of Materials) only among girls. Head circumference did not mediate the effects of cocaine on outcomes. Higher current caregiver psychological distress levels were independently associated with poorer ratings on the executive function scales. Assessment and targeted interventions to improve metacognitive processes are recommended for girls who were prenatally exposed to cocaine.
PMCID: PMC3715590  PMID: 23423839
Executive Function; Prenatal; Cocaine; BRIEF; Parental Rating
9.  A Review of the Effects of Prenatal Cocaine Exposure Among School-Aged Children abstract 
Pediatrics  2010;125(3):554-565.
Studies through 6 years have shown no long-term direct effects of prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) on children’s physical growth, developmental test scores, or language outcomes. Little is known about the effects of PCE among school-aged children aged 6 years and older.
We reviewed articles from studies that examined the effects of PCE on growth, cognitive ability, academic functioning, and brain structure and function among school-aged children.
Articles were obtained by searching PubMed, Medline, TOXNET, and PsycInfo databases from January 1980 to December 2008 with the terms “prenatal cocaine exposure,” “cocaine,” “drug exposure,” “substance exposure,” “maternal drug use,” “polysubstance,” “children,” “adolescent,” “in utero,” “pregnancy,” “development,” and “behavior.” Criteria for inclusion were (1) empirical research on children aged 6 years and older prenatally exposed to cocaine, (2) peer-reviewed English-language journal, (3) comparison group, (4) longitudinal follow-up or historical prospective design, (5) masked assessment, (6) exclusion of subjects with serious medical disabilities, and (7) studies that reported nonredundant findings for samples used in multiple investigations. Thirty-two unique studies met the criteria. Each article was independently abstracted by 2 authors to obtain sample composition, methods of PCE assessment, study design, comparison groups, dependent variables, covariates, and results.
Associations between PCE and growth, cognitive ability, academic achievement, and language functioning were small and attenuated by environmental variables. PCE had significant negative associations with sustained attention and behavioral self-regulation, even with covariate control. Although emerging evidence suggests PCE-related alterations in brain structure and function, interpretation is limited by methodologic inconsistencies.
Consistent with findings among preschool-aged children, environmental variables play a key role in moderating and explaining the effects of PCE on school-aged children’s functioning. After controlling for these effects, PCE-related impairments are reliably reported in sustained attention and behavioral self-regulation among school-aged children. Pediatrics 2010;125:554–565
PMCID: PMC3150504  PMID: 20142293
cocaine; maternal exposure; prenatal exposure delayed effects; attention; behavior; growth; language; adolescent development
10.  Effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on child behavior and growth at 10 years of age 
Neurotoxicology and teratology  2013;0:10.1016/
We examined physical growth and behavioral outcomes in 226 10-year-old children who were participants in a longitudinal study of prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE), while controlling for other factors that affect development. During the first trimester, 42% of the women used cocaine, with use declining across pregnancy. At the 10-year follow-up, the caregivers were 37 years old, had 12.8 years of education, and 50% were African American. First trimester cocaine exposure predicted decreased weight, height, and head circumference at 10 years. First trimester cocaine use also predicted maternal ratings of less sociability on the EAS Temperament Survey and more withdrawn behavior problems on the Child Behavior Checklist, more anxious/depressed behaviors on the Teacher Report Form, and more self-reported depressive symptoms on the Children’s Depression Inventory. In addition, exposure to violence mediated the effect of PCE on child and teacher reports of depressive symptoms, but not of maternal reports of sociability and withdrawn behaviors. These behaviors may be precursors of later psychiatric problems.
PMCID: PMC3844023  PMID: 23981277
prenatal cocaine exposure; growth; behavior problems; depression
11.  Prenatal cocaine exposure: An examination of childhood externalizing and internalizing behavior problems at age 7 years 
This study examines the relationship between prenatal cocaine exposure and parent-reported child behavior problems at age 7 years.
Data are from 407 African-American children (210 cocaine-exposed, 197 non-cocaine-exposed) enrolled prospectively at birth in a longitudinal study on the neurodevelopmental consequences of in utero exposure to cocaine. Prenatal cocaine exposure was assessed at delivery through maternal self-report and bioassays (maternal and infant urine and infant meconium). The Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), a measure of childhood externalizing and internalizing behavior problems, was completed by the child’s current primary caregiver during an assessment visit scheduled when the child was seven years old.
Structural equation and GLM/GEE models disclosed no association linking prenatal cocaine exposure status or level of cocaine exposure to child behavior (CBCL Externalizing and Internalizing scores or the eight CBCL sub-scale scores).
This evidence, based on standardized ratings by the current primary caregiver, fails to support hypothesized cocaine-associated behavioral problems in school-aged children with in utero cocaine exposure. A next step in this line of research is to secure standardized ratings from other informants (e.g., teachers, youth self-report).
PMCID: PMC2641031  PMID: 16584100
cocaine; prenatal exposure; child behavior
12.  Importance of Stability of Early Living Arrangements on Behavior Outcomes of Children With and Without Prenatal Drug Exposure 
We evaluated whether living arrangements of children with or without prenatal drug exposure would be associated with their behavior outcomes and adaptive functioning.
1388 children with or without prenatal cocaine or opiate exposure were enrolled in a longitudinal cohort study at one month of age, were seen at intervals, tracked over time for their living situation, and evaluated for behavior problems and adaptive functioning at three years of age. Child Behavior Check List and Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS) were administered. Using multiple regression models, we determined the factors that would predict behavior problems and adaptive functioning.
1,092 children were evaluated. Total and externalizing behavior problems T scores of children in relative care were lower (better) than those in parental; externalizing behavior scores were lower than those in non-relative care (p<0.05). Total behavior problem scores increased 2.3 and 1.3 points respectively with each move/year and each year of Child Protective Services’ involvement. Compared to children in non-relative care, those in parental or relative care had higher (better) scores in the VABS total composite (p<0.023), communication (p<0.045), and daily living (p<0.001). Each caretaker change was associated with a decrease of 2.65 and 2.19 points respectively in communication and daily living scores.
Children’s living arrangements were significantly associated with childhood behavior problems and adaptive functioning. The instability of living situation was also a significant predictor of these outcomes. While family preservation continues to be the goal of the child welfare system, expediting decision toward permanency remains paramount once children are placed in foster care.
PMCID: PMC3984541  PMID: 18349707
Prenatal cocaine; prenatal opiate; out-of-home-care; child behavior
13.  Socioemotional Effects of Fathers' Incarceration on Low-Income, Urban, School-Aged Children 
Pediatrics  2007;120(3):e678-e685.
The goal was to evaluate whether children of incarcerated fathers are more likely to report or exhibit behavioral symptoms than their equally disadvantaged peers without an incarcerated father.
During an ongoing longitudinal study of intrauterine cocaine exposure involving 102 children (50% male and 89% black) from urban, low-income homes, questions regarding incarceration of the child's father were asked of the child's primary caregiver at each visit during school age. Children were administered the Children's Depression Inventory between the ages of 6 and 11 years, and their primary caregivers completed the Child Behavior Checklist. In addition, the children's teachers completed the Teacher Report Form. Children's Depression Inventory, Child Behavior Checklist, and Teacher Report Form data obtained at the oldest available age after the first report of paternal incarceration were analyzed.
In bivariate analyses, children whose fathers were in jail had higher Children's Depression Inventory total scores compared with children without incarcerated fathers, indicating more depressive symptoms. This finding was robust in multivariate analyses after adjustment for children's age, gender, prenatal cocaine and alcohol exposure, and school-age violence exposure. Teachers reported higher Teacher Report Form externalizing scores for children whose fathers were in jail, after adjustment for age, gender, prenatal cocaine and marijuana exposure, and school-age violence exposure.
Children of incarcerated fathers reported more depressive symptoms and their teachers noted more externalizing behaviors, after controlling for other biopsychosocial risks. Interventions targeted to ameliorate the distress of children with incarcerated fathers should be considered.
PMCID: PMC2423929  PMID: 17766508
child depression; externalizing behavior; paternal incarceration; alcohol; marijuana; cocaine
14.  Early adolescent cocaine use as determined by hair analysis in a prenatal cocaine exposure cohort 
Neurotoxicology and teratology  2010;33(1):88-99.
Preclinical and other research suggest that youth with prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) may be at high risk for cocaine use due to both altered brain development and exposure to unhealthy environments.
Participants are early adolescents who were prospectively enrolled in a longitudinal study of PCE prior to or at birth. Hair samples were collected from the youth at ages 10½ and 12½ (N=263). Samples were analyzed for cocaine and its metabolites using ELISA screening with gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy (GC/MS) confirmation of positive samples. Statistical analyses included comparisons between the hair-positive and hair-negative groups on risk and protective factors chosen a priori as well as hierarchical logistical regression analyses to predict membership in the hair-positive group.
Hair samples were positive for cocaine use for 14% (n=36) of the tested cohort. Exactly half of the hair-positive preteens had a history of PCE. Group comparisons revealed that hair-negative youth had significantly higher IQ scores at age 10½; the hair-positive youth had greater availability of cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs in the home; caregivers with more alcohol problems and depressive symptoms; less nurturing home environments; and less positive attachment to their primary caregivers and peers. The caregivers of the hair-positive preteens reported that the youth displayed more externalizing and social problems, and the hair-positive youth endorsed more experimentation with cigarettes, alcohol, and/or other drugs. Mental health problems, peer drug use, exposure to violence, and neighborhood characteristics did not differ between the groups. Regression analyses showed that the availability of drugs in the home had the greatest predictive value for hair-positive group membership while higher IQ, more nurturing home environments, and positive attachment to caregivers or peers exerted some protective effect.
The results do not support a direct relationship between PCE and early adolescent experimentation with cocaine. Proximal risk and protective factors—those associated with the home environment and preteens' caregivers—were more closely related to early cocaine use than more distal factors such as neighborhood characteristics. Consistent with theories of adolescent problem behavior, the data demonstrate the complexity of predicting pre-adolescent drug use and identify a number of individual and contextual factors that could serve as important foci for intervention.
PMCID: PMC3675882  PMID: 20647046
Prenatal cocaine exposure; Early adolescents; Hair; Drug testing; Substance abuse
15.  Systematic Review of Prenatal Cocaine Exposure and Adolescent Development 
Pediatrics  2013;131(6):e1917-e1936.
Previous research found that prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) may increase children's vulnerability to behavior and cognition problems. Maturational changes in brain and social development make adolescence an ideal time to reexamine associations. The objective was to conduct a systematic review of published studies examining associations between PCE and adolescent development (behavior, cognition/school outcomes, physiologic responses, and brain morphology/functioning).
Articles were obtained from PubMed, PsycInfo, Web of Science, and CINAHL databases through July 2012 with search terms: prenatal drug, substance, or cocaine exposure; adolescence/adolescent; and in utero substance/drug exposure. Criteria for inclusion were nonexposed comparison group, human adolescents aged 11 to 19, peer-reviewed, English-language, and adolescent outcomes.
Twenty-seven studies representing 9 cohorts met the criteria. Four outcome categories were identified: behavior, cognition/school performance, brain structure/function, and physiologic responses. Eleven examined behavior; 7 found small but significant differences favoring nonexposed adolescents, with small effect sizes. Eight examined cognition/school performance; 6 reported significantly lower scores on language and memory tasks among adolescents with PCE, with varying effect sizes varied. Eight examined brain structure/function and reported morphologic differences with few functional differences. Three examined physiologic responses with discordant findings. Most studies controlled for other prenatal exposures, caregiving environment, and violence exposure; few examined mechanisms.
Consistent with findings among younger children, PCE increases the risk for small but significantly less favorable adolescent functioning. Although the clinical importance of differences is often unknown, the caregiving environment and violence exposure pose additional threats. Future research should investigate mechanisms linking PCE with adolescent functioning.
PMCID: PMC3666107  PMID: 23713107
prenatal cocaine exposure; adolescent development
16.  Effects of prenatal cocaine/polydrug exposure on substance use by age 15 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2013;134:201-210.
Examined effects of prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) on tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and cocaine use by age 15.
Adolescent (n = 358; 183 PCE, 175 non-prenatally cocaine exposed; NCE) drug use was assessed using urine, hair, and/or blood spot samples and self-report (Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System; YRBSS) at ages 12 and 15. Logistic regression assessed effects of PCE on drug use controlling for other drug exposures, environment and blood lead levels (BLL).
Adjusted percentages of drug use (PCE vs. NCE) were: tobacco 35% vs. 26% (p < .04), marijuana 33% vs. 23% (p < .04), alcohol 40% vs. 35% (p < .01), and any drugs 59% vs. 50% (p < .005). PCE adolescents were twice as likely to use tobacco (OR = 2.02, 95% CI = 1.05–3.90, p < .04), 2.2 times more likely to use alcohol (OR = 2.16, 95% CI = 1.21–3.87, p < .01) and 1.8 times more likely to use marijuana (OR = 1.81, 95% CI = 1.02–3.22, p < .04) than NCE adolescents. A race-by-cocaine-exposure interaction (p < .01) indicated PCE non-African American adolescents had greater probability of tobacco use (65%) than NCE non-African American youth (21%). PCE was associated with any drug use (OR = 2.16, CI = 1.26–3.69, p < .005), while higher BLL predicted alcohol use (p < .001). Violence exposure was a predictor of tobacco (p < .002), marijuana (p < .0007) and any drug (p < .04).
PCE and exposure to violence increased the likelihood of tobacco, marijuana or any drug use by age 15, while PCE and higher early BLL predicted alcohol use. Prevention efforts should target high risk groups prior to substance use initiation.
PMCID: PMC3941005  PMID: 24176200
Prenatal cocaine exposure; Adolescent substance use; Violence; Lead
17.  Preschoolers’ Psychosocial Problems: In the Eyes of the Beholder? Adding Teacher Characteristics as Determinants of Discrepant Parent–Teacher Reports 
In this study, we explored informant characteristics as determinants of parent–teacher disagreement on preschoolers’ psychosocial problems. Teacher characteristics were included in the analyses, in addition to child and parent factors. Psychosocial problems of 732 4-year olds from a Norwegian community sample were assessed by parents and teachers (CBCL-TRF). Furthermore, teachers reported on their education, experience and relationship to the child. Parental stress and psychopathology were also measured. Teachers rated children considerably lower than their parents did, especially on internalizing problems. When teachers rated more child problems, this was strongly associated with conflict in the teacher–child relationship, which predicted disagreement more than other factors. The highest agreement was on boys’ externalizing problems. Girls’ behavior was rated much lower by teachers than boys’ behavior compared to parents’ ratings. Possible teacher perception biases are discussed, such as teacher–child conflict, non-identification of internalizing problems, and same-gender child preference.
PMCID: PMC3332350  PMID: 22080387
Informant; Discrepancy; Disagreement; Psychopathology; Child; Preschool; Psychology; Psychiatry; Child and School Psychology
18.  Infant Neurobehavioral Dysregulation Related to Behavior Problems in Children with Prenatal Substance Exposure 
Pediatrics  2009;124(5):1355-1362.
To test a developmental model of neurobehavioral dysregulation relating prenatal substance exposure to behavior problems at age 7.
The sample included 360 cocaine-exposed and 480 unexposed children from lower to lower middle class families of which 78% were African American. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to test models whereby prenatal exposure to cocaine and other substances would result in neurobehavioral dysregulation in infancy, which would predict externalizing and internalizing behavior problems in early childhood. SEM models were developed for individual and combined parent and teacher report for externalizing, internalizing, and total problem scores on the Child Behavior Checklist.
The Goodness of Fit Statistics indicated that all of the models met criteria for adequate fit with 7 of the 9 models explaining 18 to 60% of the variance in behavior problems at age 7. The paths in the models indicate that there are direct effects of prenatal substance exposure on 7-year behavior problems as well as indirect effects, including neurobehavioral dysregulation.
Prenatal substance exposure affects behavior problems at age 7 through two mechanisms. The direct pathway is consistent with a teratogenic effect. Indirect pathways suggest cascading effects where prenatal substance exposure results in neurobehavioral dysregulation manifesting as deviations in later behavioral expression. Developmental models provide an understanding of pathways that describe how prenatal substance exposure affects child outcome and have significant implications for early identification and prevention.
PMCID: PMC2874881  PMID: 19822596
Prenatal substance exposure; cocaine; neurobehavioral dysregulation; behavior problems
19.  Pre-divorce problems in 3-year-olds: a prospective study in boys and girls 
We examined to what extent internalizing and externalizing problems at age 3 preceded and predicted parental divorce, and if divorce and the time lapse since divorce were related to internalizing and externalizing problems at age 12.
Parental ratings of internalizing and externalizing problems were collected with the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) in a large sample (N = 6,426) of 3-year-old children. All these children were followed through the age of 12 years, at which parents completed the CBCL again, while teachers completed the Teacher’s Report Form. Children whose parents divorced between age 3 and age 12 were compared with children whose families remained intact.
Girls whose parents divorced between ages 3 and 12 already showed more externalizing problems at age 3 than girls whose parents stayed married. Higher levels of externalizing problems in girls at age 3 predicted later parental divorce. Parental reports indicated that 12-year-olds with divorced parents showed more internalizing and externalizing problems than children with married parents. Levels of teacher-reported problems were not different between children with married versus divorced parents. However, children whose parents divorced between ages 3 and 12 showed more teacher-rated internalizing problems at age 12 when the divorce was more recent than when the divorce was less recent. Parental ratings of both internalizing and externalizing problems at age 12 were not associated with the time lapse since divorce.
Externalizing problems in girls precede and predict later parental divorce. Post-divorce problems in children vary by raters, and may depend on the time lapse since divorce.
PMCID: PMC3056000  PMID: 20213327
Parental divorce; Pre-divorce problems; Internalizing and externalizing problems
20.  Dose–Response Effect of Mother–Infant Clinical Home Visiting on Aggressive Behavior Problems in Kindergarten 
The Objective of this follow-up study was to assess the long-term effects of clinical infant home-visiting services on child outcomes at school entry.
Participants were 63 five-year-olds from low-income families, half of whom were referred to parent–infant home-visiting services during the first 18 months of life due to concerns about the caretaking environment. Families received between 0 and 18 months of weekly home visits based on infant age at entry into the study. At age 5, children were rated by teachers on the Preschool Behavior Questionnaire for behavior problems in the classroom and by parents both on the Simmons Behavior Checklist for behavior problems at home and on the Achenbach Social Competence Items for positive play behaviors with friends.
With initial family risk status and child gender controlled, teacher-rated hostile behavior problems decreased in dose–response relation to the duration of early home-visiting services, which accounted for 15% of the variance in child hostile behavior. Parents' reports of positive play behaviors were positively linearly related to service duration. Parents' reports of behavior problems were less reliably related to service duration than teacher reports.
Early home-visiting services reduced the incidence of aggressive behavior problems among socially at-risk children for up to 3.5 years after the end of services.
PMCID: PMC1896103  PMID: 15167086
aggression; intervention; preschool; conduct disorder; oppositional disorder
21.  Epidemiological study on behavioural and emotional problems in developmental age: prevalence in a sample of Italian children, based on parent and teacher reports 
The aim of this study is to examine the prevalence of behavioural and emotional problems in a sample of school children living in Campania, a region of South Italy.
The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) Parent Report Form (PRF) and the CBCL Teacher Rating Form (TRF) were administered to parents and teachers of a sample of school children aged 8-9 yr.
The subjects (SS) eligible for the study were 3072. In 2137 (69.5%) cases parents returned the envelopes back. 1228 (57.4%) subjects were excluded because of lack of signed consensus, unfilled or incomplete forms. Parents reported children’s behavioural or emotional Total Problems in 14.7% of the SS. (5.2% borderline, 9.5% clinical), Internalizing Problems in 18.5% (8.0% borderline, 10.5% clinical), and Externalizing Problems in 8.5% (3.8% borderline, 4.7% clinical) respectively. At the Competence Scale of CBCL more than 2/3 of the sample show high rate for Total Competence Problem (24.3% borderline, 47.3% clinical.) Teachers reported 8.7% of SS having Total Problems, (4.3% borderline, 4.4% clinical), Internalizing problems were detected in 13.3% of the sample (4.9% borderline and 8.4% clinical), while Externalizing problems were reported for 9.6% of SS (4.1% borderline and 5.5% clinical). In the sub-scale of Academic Performances teachers report a high number of subjects with problems, 18.7%, whose 4.3% had a “borderline” score, and 14.4% had a “clinical” score.
Concerning Total Problems (clinical and borderline SS, 14.7% as reported by parents, 8.7% as reported by teachers) we obtained a prevalence similar to that reported in the rest of the country, with differences in gender (males 13.2%, females 16.0% as reported by parents; males 7.4%, females 9.7% as reported by teachers). The difficulties in social and relationship competencies area were higher (4/10 children). This datum should be cautiously evaluated because the possible inadequacy of CBCL competences scale.
PMCID: PMC3972618  PMID: 24533835
Behavioral problems; CBCL; Emotional well-being
22.  Longitudinal Effects of Prenatal Cocaine Use on Mother-Child Interactions at Ages 3 and 5 
To assess the effect of maternal prenatal and past-year cocaine use on mother-child interactions across the preschool years.
The sample is drawn from the Miami Prenatal Cocaine Study (MPCS), a longitudinal follow-up of prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) in a large cohort of African-American infants prospectively enrolled at birth. Analyses are based on the 366 children (168 PCE and 198 NCE) in the care of their biological mothers and with completed mother-child interaction measures at the 3- and/or 5-year assessments. Videotaped interactions were coded using a modified Egeland Teaching Task scheme. GLM/GEE models were used to evaluate the effect of PCE on the overall quality of maternal-child interaction, measured by the Egeland total score at both study visits, and on the individual Egeland subscales at the 5-year visit, while adjusting for other suspected influences on interactions.
PCE dyads demonstrated less optimal overall mother-child interactions compared to NCE dyads. The estimated PCE-associated difference did not shift appreciably with statistical adjustment for child sex, child age at exam or other birth covariates. PCE dyads with past-year maternal cocaine use had significantly lower Egeland summary scores compared to children with neither exposure. In subscale analyses, PCE was most strongly associated with greater maternal intrusiveness and boundary dissolution at the 5-year visit.
Prenatal and past-year maternal cocaine use appear to be associated with poorer quality in mother-child interaction during early childhood. These dynamics should be considered when examining the association between prenatal cocaine exposure and child cognitive, behavioral, and academic outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3252426  PMID: 22157442
prenatal; cocaine; exposure; mother-child; interaction
23.  Risk-Taking Behavior among Adolescents with Prenatal Drug Exposure and Extrauterine Environmental Adversity 
High-risk environments characterized by familial substance use, poverty, inadequate parental monitoring, and violence exposure are associated with an increased propensity for adolescents to engage in risk-taking behaviors (e.g., substance use, sexual behavior, and delinquency). However, additional factors such as drug exposure in utero and deficits in inhibitory control among drug-exposed youth may further influence the likelihood that adolescents in high-risk environments will engage in risk-taking behavior. This study examined the influence of prenatal substance exposure, inhibitory control, and sociodemographic/environmental risk factors on risk-taking behaviors in a large cohort of adolescents with and without prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE).
Risk-taking behavior (delinquency, substance use, and sexual activity) was assessed in 963 adolescents (433 cocaine-exposed, 530 nonexposed) at 15 years of age.
PCE predicted later arrests and early onset of sexual behavior in controlled analyses. Associations were partially mediated, however, by adolescent inhibitory control problems. PCE was not associated with substance use at this age. In addition, male gender, low parental involvement, and violence exposure were associated with greater odds of engaging in risk-taking behavior across the observed domains.
Study findings substantiate concern regarding the association between prenatal substance exposure and related risk factors and the long-term outcomes of exposed youth. Access to the appropriate social, educational, and medical services are essential in preventing and intervening with risk-taking behaviors and the potential consequences (e.g., adverse health outcomes, incarceration), especially among high-risk adolescent youth and their families.
PMCID: PMC4139145  PMID: 24220515
prenatal drug exposure; cocaine; adolescence; risk-taking behavior
24.  Childhood Bullying Involvement and Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence 
Pediatrics  2006;118(2):e235-e242.
Our objectives with this study were to describe the prevalence of bullying involvement (ie, bullying and victimization) among children from a multigenerational study and to examine the relationship of these childhood behaviors and exposure to intimate partner violence.
A community-based cohort of 112 children (aged 6 to 13 years) was asked to self-report on physical, verbal, and relational types of bullying and victimization experienced in the past year. Parents reported on their child’s externalizing and internalizing behaviors during the previous 6 months using items from Achenbach’s Child Behavior Checklist. The frequency of parental experiences of intimate partner violence perpetration and victimization at 2 time points during the preceding 5 years was measured using Conflict Tactics Scale items. The association of intimate partner violence and parent-reported child behavioral problems was examined, followed by exposure to intimate partner violence and child-reported bullying or victimization. Parental risk factors (eg, race/ethnicity, education, problem drinking) that predispose to intimate partner violence were controlled for using propensity score statistical modeling.
Eighty-two (73.2%) children reported being victimized by peers, and 38 (33.9%) children reported bullying behaviors in the past year. More reports came from girls than from boys (55% for victimization and 61% for bullying). Almost all (97%) child bullies were also victims themselves. Intimate partner violence was reported by parent respondents in 53 (50.5%) households at any or both of the 2 time points. Exposure to intimate partner violence was not associated with child-reported relational bullying behaviors or victimization by peers, However, intimate partner violence–exposed children were at increased risk for problematic levels of externalizing behavior/physical aggression and internalizing behaviors.
In our sample, children who were 6 to 13 years of age reported a substantial amount of bullying and victimization; a large majority were bully-victims and female. Regression analyses did not show that children who were exposed to intimate partner violence were more likely to engage in relational bullying. However, children who are exposed to intimate partner violence have a higher likelihood of internalizing behaviors and physical aggression.
PMCID: PMC2270412  PMID: 16882768
bullying; intimate partner violence; behavior disorders/problems
25.  Association of Prenatal and Childhood Blood Lead Concentrations with Criminal Arrests in Early Adulthood 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e101.
Childhood lead exposure is a purported risk factor for antisocial behavior, but prior studies either relied on indirect measures of exposure or did not follow participants into adulthood to examine the relationship between lead exposure and criminal activity in young adults. The objective of this study was to determine if prenatal and childhood blood lead concentrations are associated with arrests for criminal offenses.
Methods and Findings
Pregnant women were recruited from four prenatal clinics in Cincinnati, Ohio if they resided in areas of the city with a high concentration of older, lead-contaminated housing. We studied 250 individuals, 19 to 24 y of age, out of 376 children who were recruited at birth between 1979 and 1984. Prenatal maternal blood lead concentrations were measured during the first or early second trimester of pregnancy. Childhood blood lead concentrations were measured on a quarterly and biannual basis through 6.5 y. Study participants were examined at an inner-city pediatric clinic and the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Total arrests and arrests for offenses involving violence were collected from official Hamilton County, Ohio criminal justice records. Main outcomes were the covariate-adjusted rate ratios (RR) for total arrests and arrests for violent crimes associated with each 5 μg/dl (0.24 μmol/l) increase in blood lead concentration. Adjusted total arrest rates were greater for each 5 μg/dl (0.24 μmol/l) increase in blood lead concentration: RR = 1.40 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.07–1.85) for prenatal blood lead, 1.07 (95% CI 0.88–1.29) for average childhood blood lead, and 1.27 (95% CI 1.03–1.57) for 6-year blood lead. Adjusted arrest rates for violent crimes were also greater for each 5 μg/dl increase in blood lead: RR = 1.34 (95% CI 0.88–2.03) for prenatal blood lead, 1.30 (95% CI 1.03–1.64) for average childhood blood lead, and 1.48 (95% CI 1.15–1.89) for 6-year blood lead.
Prenatal and postnatal blood lead concentrations are associated with higher rates of total arrests and/or arrests for offenses involving violence. This is the first prospective study to demonstrate an association between developmental exposure to lead and adult criminal behavior.
Kim Dietrich and colleagues find an association between developmental exposure to lead and adult criminal behavior.
Editors' Summary
Violent crime is an increasing problem in many countries, but why are some people more aggressive than others? Being male has been identified as a risk factor for violent criminal behavior in several studies, as have exposure to tobacco smoke before birth, having antisocial parents, and belonging to a poor family. Another potential risk factor for antisocial behavior as an adult is exposure to lead during childhood, although few studies have looked directly at whether childhood lead exposure is linked with criminal behavior in adulthood. Lead is a toxic metal that damages the nervous system when ingested or inhaled. It is present throughout the environment because of its widespread use in the past in paint, solder for water pipes, and gasoline. In 1978, 13.5 million US children had a blood lead level above 10 μg/dl, the current US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blood lead level of concern (the average US blood lead level is 2 μg/dl). Lead paint and solder were banned in 1978 and 1986, respectively, by the US federal government; leaded gasoline was finally phased out in 1996. By 2002, only 310,000 US children had a blood lead level above 10 μg/dl. However, children exposed to lower levels of lead than this—through ingesting flakes or dust residues of old lead paint, for example—can have poor intellectual development and behavioral problems including aggression.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although some studies have suggested that childhood lead exposure is associated with later criminal behavior, these studies have often relied on indirect measurements of childhood lead exposure such as bone lead levels in young adults or a history of lead poisoning. Other studies that have measured childhood lead exposure directly have not followed their participants into adulthood. In this new study, the researchers investigate the association between actual measurements of prenatal and childhood blood lead concentrations and criminal arrests in early adulthood to get a clearer idea about whether early lead exposure is associated with subsequent violent behavior.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between 1979 and 1984, the researchers recruited pregnant women living in poor areas of Cincinnati, which had a high concentration of older, lead-contaminated housing, into the Cincinnati Lead Study. They measured the women's blood lead concentrations during pregnancy as an indication of their offspring's prenatal lead exposure and the children's blood lead levels regularly until they were six and half years old. They then obtained information from the local criminal justice records on how many times each of the 250 offspring had been arrested between becoming 18 years old and the end of October 2005. The researchers found that increased blood lead levels before birth and during early childhood were associated with higher rates of arrest for any reason and for violent crimes. For example, for every 5 μg/dl increase in blood lead levels at six years of age, the risk of being arrested for a violent crime as a young adult increased by almost 50% (the “relative risk” was 1.48).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide strong evidence that early lead exposure is a risk factor for criminal behavior, including violent crime, in adulthood. One possibility, which the authors were unable to assess in this study, is that lead exposure impairs intelligence, which in turn makes it more likely that a criminal offender will be caught (i.e., arrested). The authors discuss a number of limitations in their study—for example, they probably did not capture all criminal behavior (since most criminal behavior does not lead to arrest). Although both environmental lead levels and crime rates have dropped over the last 30 years in the US, the overall reduction was not uniform—inner-city children remain particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. The findings therefore suggest that a further reduction in childhood lead exposure might be an important and achievable way to reduce violent crime.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A PLoS Medicine Perspective article by David Bellinger further discusses this study and a related paper on childhood lead exposure and brain volume reduction in adulthood
Study researcher Kim Dietrich can be heard talking about “The Lethal Legacy of Lead”, a brief MP3 about lead exposure and violent crime
Toxtown, an interactive site from the US National Library of Medicine, provides information on environmental health concerns including exposure to lead (in English and Spanish)
The US Environmental Protection Agency provides information on lead in paint, dust, and soil and on protecting children from lead poisoning (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides a list of links to information on lead poisoning (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
The UK Health Protection Agency also provides information about lead and its health hazards
PMCID: PMC2689664  PMID: 18507497

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