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USDTL Assisted Research

Prenatal Cocaine Exposure: an Examination of Childhood Externalizing and Internalizing Behavior Problems at Age 7 Years

Veronica H. Accornero, James C. Anthony, Connie E. Morrow, Lihua Xue, Emmalee S. Bandstra
First Published: 18 May 2011 DIO: 

Perinatal Chemical Addiction Research and Education (CARE) Program, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Florida 33101, USA. 


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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).

Declaration of Interest:

This research was conducted in the context of an ongoing longitudinal study funded by the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA 06556). Support was also provided by a NIDA career development award (K01 DA 16720), a NIDA research training award (T32 DA 07292), the General Clinical Research Center (MOI RR 16587), and the Health Foundation of South Florida.

Keywords: cocaine, prenatal exposure, child behavior

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