Studies have confirmed the detrimental effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on language development in children. Little is known about the ability of prenatal alcohol risk (PAR) screening measures to predict language or other neurodevelopmental delays in young children, however. The intent of this study is to identify whether PAR predicts communication development in children at 12, 24, and 36 months of age.
Data from 772 women and their children who participated in the All Our Families pregnancy cohort were analyzed. Respondents completed the T-ACE, a validated screening tool for detecting PAR. Communication development in children was measured through the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, Third Edition. Logistic regression was used to generate odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals.
A positive screen for PAR places a child at risk for communication delay (≤1 SD below mean) by approximately 1.5-fold at 12, 24, and 36 months of age, even after adjustment for demographic variables. Follow-up analysis revealed a significant difference in the prevalence of risk for communication delays between 12 and 24 months and between 24 and 36 months in both low- and high-risk drinking groups, with 24-month-old children showing the greatest risk for delay.
The results of this study suggest that screening for PAR in expectant mothers may identify a group of young children at increased risk for communication delays. This research carries clinical implications and provides support for PAR screening in informing early childhood developmental screening efforts.