Does Light Drinking during Pregnancy Relate to Behavioral or Cognitive Problems in the Child?
Data from the first 2 sweeps of the nationally representative UK Millennium Cohort Study, a longitudinal birth cohort study begun in 2001, were used to relate drinking patterns during pregnancy with behavioral and cognitive outcomes in children at 3 years of age (n=12,495). Behavioral problems were indicated by scores above defined clinically relevant cutoffs on the parent-report version of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Cognitive ability was assessed using the Naming Vocabulary subscale from the British Ability Scale (BAS) and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA).
- There was a J-shaped relationship between maternal drinking during pregnancy and the likelihood of scoring above the cutoff on the Total Difficulties Scale and the Conduct Problems, Hyperactivity, and Emotional Symptom subscales of the SDQ. Children born to light drinkers were less likely to score above the cutoff than children of abstinent mothers, while those born to heavy drinkers were more likely to score above the cutoff.
- Boys born to mothers who had up to 1–2 drinks per week or per occasion were less likely to have conduct problems (odds ratio [OR], 0.59) or hyperactivity (OR, 0.71). These effects remained in fully adjusted models. Girls were less likely to have emotional symptoms (OR, 0.72) or peer problems (OR, 0.68) compared with those born to abstainers. These effects were attenuated in fully adjusted models.
- Boys born to light drinkers had higher cognitive-ability test scores compared with boys born to abstainers. The difference for the BAS was attenuated after adjusting for socioeconomic factors, while the difference for the BSRA remained statistically significant.