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1.  Prenatal Substance Exposure: Neurobiological Organization at One Month 
The Journal of pediatrics  2013;163(4):989-994.e1.
To examine the autonomic nervous system and neurobehavioral response to a sustained visual attention challenge among 1-month old infants with prenatal substance exposure.
Study design
We measured heart rate (HR), respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), and neurobehavior during sustained visual orientation tasks included in the NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale (NNNS) in 1,129, 1-month infants with prenatal substance exposure. Four groups were compared: infants with prenatal cocaine and opiate exposure, infants with cocaine exposure, infants with opiate exposure, and infants with exposure to other substances (i.e. alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco).
Infants with prenatal cocaine and opiate exposure had the highest HRs and lowest levels of RSA during a sustained visual attention procedure compared with the other three groups. Infants with prenatal cocaine and opiate exposure had poorer quality of movement and more hypertonicity during the NNNS exam compared with the other three exposure groups. Infants with prenatal cocaine and opiate exposure had more nonoptimal reflexes and stress/abstinence signs compared with infants with prenatal cocaine exposure only and infants with prenatal exposure to alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.
Problems with arousal regulation were identified among infants with prenatal substance exposure. Autonomic dysregulation has been implicated as a mechanism by which these difficulties occur. Our results suggest that infants with both prenatal cocaine and opiate exposure have the greatest autonomic response to the challenge of a sustained visual attention task, which may place these infants at risk for developing problems associated with physiological and behavioral regulation, a necessary prerequisite for early learning.
PMCID: PMC3773295  PMID: 23743094
in utero drug exposure; physiology; neurobehavioral
2.  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
3.  The Role of Prenatal Substance Exposure and Early Adversity on Parasympathetic Functioning from 3 to 6 Years of Age 
Developmental psychobiology  2013;56(4):821-835.
We employed latent growth curve analysis to examine trajectories of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) from 3 to 6 years among children with varying levels of prenatal substance exposure and early adversity. Data were drawn from a prospective longitudinal study of prenatal substance exposure that included 1,121 participants. Baseline RSA and RSA reactivity to an attention-demanding task were assessed at 3, 4, 5, and 6 years. Overall, there were significant individual differences in the trajectories of RSA reactivity, but not baseline RSA, across development. Greater levels of prenatal substance exposure, and less exposure to early adversity, were associated with increased RSA reactivity at 3 years, but by 6 years, both were associated with greater RSA reactivity. Prenatal substance exposure had an indirect influence through early adversity on growth in RSA reactivity. Results are in support of and contribute to the framework of allostatic load.
PMCID: PMC4132658  PMID: 24002807
allostatic load; prenatal substance exposure; early adversity; respiratory sinus arrhythmia
4.  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
5.  Neurobehavioral Disinhibition Predicts Initiation of Substance Use in Children with Prenatal Cocaine Exposure 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2012;126(1-2):80-86.
In previous work we (Fisher et al., 2011) examined the emergence of neurobehavioral disinhibition (ND) in adolescents with prenatal substance exposure. We computed ND factor scores at three age points (8/9, 11 and 13/14 years) and found that both prenatal substance exposure and early adversity predicted ND. The purpose of the current study was to determine the association between these ND scores and initiation of substance use between ages 8–16 in this cohort as early initiation of substance use has been related to later substance use disorders. Our hypothesis was that prenatal cocaine exposure predisposes the child to ND, which, in turn, is associated with initiation of substance use by age 16.
We studied 386 cocaine exposed and 517 unexposed children followed since birth in a longitudinal study. Five dichotomous variables were computed based on the subject’s report of substance use: alcohol only; tobacco only; marijuana only; illicit substances and any substance.
Cox proportional hazard regression showed that the 8/9 year ND score was related to initiation of alcohol, tobacco, illicit and any substance use but not marijuana use. The trajectory of ND across the three age periods was related to substance use initiation in all five substance use categories. Prenatal cocaine exposure, although initially related to tobacco, marijuana and illicit substance initiation, was no longer significant with ND scores in the models.
Prenatal drug exposure appears to be a risk pathway to ND, which by 8/9 years portends substance use initiation.
PMCID: PMC3439586  PMID: 22608010
neurodevelopmental disinhibition; substance use initiation; prenatal cocaine exposure
6.  Long-Term Impact of Maternal Substance Use during Pregnancy and Extrauterine Environmental Adversity: Stress Hormone Levels of Preadolescent Children 
Pediatric research  2011;70(2):213-219.
Prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) is associated with blunted stress responsivity within the extrauterine environment. This study investigated the association between PCE and diurnal salivary cortisol levels in preadolescent children characterized by high biological and/or social risk (N = 725). Saliva samples were collected at their home. Analyses revealed no group differences in basal evening or morning cortisol levels; however, children with higher degrees of PCE exhibited blunted overnight increases in cortisol, controlling for additional risk factors. Race and caregiver depression were also associated with diurnal cortisol patterns. While repeated PCE may contribute to alterations in the normal or expected stress response later in life, sociodemographic and environmental factors are likewise important in understanding hormone physiology, especially as more time elapses from the PCE. Anticipating the potential long-term medical, developmental, or behavioral effects of an altered ability to mount a normal protective cortisol stress response is essential in optimizing the outcomes of children with PCE.
PMCID: PMC3686483  PMID: 21546861
7.  Psychopathology and Special Education Enrollment in Children with Prenatal Cocaine Exposure 
This study evaluated how enrollment in special education services in 11 year old children relates to prenatal cocaine exposure, psychopathology, and other risk factors.
Participants were 498 children enrolled in The Maternal Lifestyle Study, a prospective, longitudinal, multisite study examining outcomes of children with prenatal cocaine exposure. Logistic regression was used to examine the effect of prenatal cocaine exposure and psychopathology on enrollment in an individualized education plan (a designation specific to children with special education needs), with environmental, maternal, and infant medical variables as covariates.
Prenatal cocaine exposure, an interaction of prenatal cocaine exposure and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, child Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, parent-reported internalizing behaviors, and teacher-reported externalizing behaviors, predicted enrollment in an individualized education plan. Other statistically significant variables in the model were male gender, low birth weight, being small for gestational age, white race, caregiver change, low socio-economic status, low child intelligence quotient, caregiver depression, and prenatal marijuana exposure.
Prenatal cocaine exposure increased the likelihood of receiving an individualized education plan with adjustment for covariates. Psychopathology also predicted this special education outcome, in combination with and independent of prenatal cocaine exposure.
PMCID: PMC3400535  PMID: 22487696
cocaine; special education; behavior; prenatal substance exposure
8.  The Combined Effects of Prenatal Drug Exposure and Early Adversity on Neurobehavioral Disinhibition in Childhood and Adolescence 
Development and Psychopathology  2011;23(3):777-788.
The negative effects of prenatal substance exposure on neurobiological and psychological development and of early adversity are clear, but little is known about their combined effects. In this study, multilevel analyses of the effects of prenatal substance exposure and early adversity on the emergence of neurobehavioral disinhibition in adolescence were conducted. Neurobehavioral disinhibition has previously been observed to occur frequently in multiproblem youth from high-risk backgrounds. In the present study, neurobehavioral disinhibition was assessed via behavioral dysregulation and poor executive function composite measures. Data were drawn from a prospective longitudinal investigation of prenatal substance exposure that included 1073 participants followed from birth through adolescence. The results from latent growth modeling analyses showed mean stability but significant individual differences in behavioral dysregulation and mean decline with individual differences in executive function difficulties. Prior behavioral dysregulation predicted increased executive function difficulties. Prenatal drug use predicted the emergence and growth in neurobehavioral disinhibition across adolescence (directly for behavioral dysregulation and indirectly for executive function difficulties via early adversity and behavioral dysregulation). Prenatal drug use and early adversity exhibited unique effects on growth in behavioral dysregulation; early adversity uniquely predicted executive function difficulties. These results are discussed in terms of implications for theory development, social policy, and prevention science.
PMCID: PMC3335443  PMID: 21756431
9.  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
10.  Preadolescent behavior problems after prenatal cocaine exposure: Relationship between teacher and caretaker ratings (Maternal Lifestyle Study) 
Neurotoxicology and teratology  2010;33(1):78-87.
We previously reported an association between prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) and childhood behavior problems as observed by the parent or caretaker. However, these behavior problems may not manifest in a structured environment, such as a school setting.
We determined whether there is an association between PCE and school behavior problems and whether ratings of behavior problems from the teacher differ from those noted by the parent or caretaker.
The Maternal Lifestyle Study, a multicenter study, enrolled 1388 children with and without PCE at one month of age for longitudinal assessment. Teachers masked to prenatal drug exposure status completed the Teacher Report Form (TRF/6-18) when children were 7, 9, and 11 years old. We also administered the Child Behavior Checklist-parent report (CBCL) to the parent/caretaker at same ages and then at 13 years. We performed latent growth curve modeling to determine whether high PCE will predict externalizing, internalizing, total behavior, and attention problems at 7 years of age and whether changes in problems' scores over time differ between those exposed and non-exposed from both teacher and parent report. Besides levels of PCE as predictors, we controlled for the following covariates, namely: site, child characteristics (gender and other prenatal drug exposures), family level influences (maternal age, depression and psychological symptomatology, continuing drug use, exposure to domestic violence, home environment, and socioeconomic status), and community level factors (neighborhood and community violence).
The mean behavior problem T scores from the teacher report were significantly higher than ratings by the parent or caretaker. Latent growth curve modeling revealed a significant relationship between intercepts of problem T scores from teacher and parent ratings; i.e., children that were rated poorly by teachers were also rated poorly by their parent/caretaker or vice versa. After controlling for covariates, we found high PCE to be a significant predictor of with higher externalizing behavior problem T scores from both parent and teacher report at 7 years (p=0.034 and p=0.021, respectively) in comparison to non-PCE children. These differences in scores from either teacher or caregiver were stable through subsequent years or did not change significantly over time. Boys had higher T scores than girls on internalizing and total problems by caretaker report; they also had significantly higher T scores for internalizing, total, and attention problems by teacher ratings; the difference was marginally significant for externalizing behavior (p=0.070). Caretaker postnatal use of tobacco, depression, and community violence were significant predictors of all behavior problems rated by parent/caretaker, while lower scores on the home environment predicted all behavior outcomes by the teacher report.
Children with high PCE are likely to manifest externalizing behavior problems; their behavior problem scores at 7 years from either report of teacher or parent remained higher than scores of non-exposed children on subsequent years. Screening and identification of behavior problems at earlier ages could make possible initiation of intervention, while considering the likely effects of other confounders.
PMCID: PMC3011027  PMID: 20600844

Results 1-10 (10)