Both parental psychopathology and prenatal maternal alcohol dependency can predict the behavioral phenotype in children

Arthur Staroselsky, Ellen Fantus, Reuven Sussman, Paul Sandor, Gideon Koren, Irena Nulman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: To identify whether a child's behavior phenotype can be predicted by parental psychopathology and/or prenatal maternal alcohol dependency by using the Child Behavior List (CBCL) as a screening tool. Methods: A retrospective cohort of four non-exclusive groups of children (aged 8-15 years) was studied: (i) children exposed to alcohol in utero (n = 25); (ii) children not exposed to alcohol in utero (n = 46); (iii) children exposed to parental psychopathology (n = 37); (iv) children not exposed to parental psychopathology (n = 34). To distinguish between the effects of alcohol and parental psychopathology, the children were further subdivided into groups with alcohol exposure in utero and parental psychopathology (n = 23), and psychopathology without alchohol exposure (n = 14). Each child was assessed with the CBCL. Subscale scores and selected subscale items were compared between the groups using t-tests and regression analysis. Results: Children exposed to alcohol in utero scored significantly lower than unexposed children on school competency (p = 0.015). They were more likely to attend special classes (p = 0.048), repeat a grade (p = 0.011), and display more disobedience (p = 0.039) and vandalism (p = 0.033). For special classes and disobedience at school, gender proved to be a significant predictor, while maternal alcohol dependency was a significant predictor of vandalism and repeated grades. Children with parental psychopathology differed from children without parental psychopathology in the anxious/depressed (p = 0.04), social problems (p = 0.004), and attention problems (p = 0.04) subscales. The subscale items that were significantly different between the groups were nervousness (p = 0.002), self-consciousness (p = 0.019), feelings of worthlessness (p = 0.041), loneliness (p = 0.005), and difficulty with concentration (p = 0.02). Parental psychopathology was a significant predictor of all five items. Age and gender, however, were significant predictors only of difficulty with concentration. No significant differences were found when the groups with alcohol exposure in utero and parental psychopathology, and psychopathology without alcohol exposure were compared. In summary, parental psychopathology was a significant predictor of a child's internalizing behavior, as well as social problems, whereas alcohol exposure was more predictive of externalizing behaviour. Conclusion: Parental psychopathology and prenatal exposure to maternal alcohol can contribute to the child's behavioral phenotype as measured by the CBCL. Therefore, the CBCL can be used to screen for such behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-25
Number of pages4
JournalPaediatric Drugs
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Alcoholism, assessment
  • Behavioural disorders
  • Children
  • Psychiatric disorders, assessment

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