European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 23, Issue 10, pp 863–875 | Cite as

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

  • Nora Dörrie
  • Manuel FöckerEmail author
  • Inga Freunscht
  • Johannes Hebebrand


Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) is one of the most prevalent and modifiable risk factors for somatic, behavioral, and neurological abnormalities. Affected individuals exhibit a wide range of such features referred to as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). These are characterized by a more or less specific pattern of minor facial dysmorphic features, growth deficiency and central nervous system symptoms. Nevertheless, whereas the diagnosis of the full-blown fetal alcohol syndrome does not pose a major challenge, only a tentative diagnosis of FASD can be reached if only mild features are present and/or maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy cannot be verified. The respective disorders have lifelong implications. The teratogenic mechanisms induced by PAE can lead to various additional somatic findings and structural abnormalities of cerebrum and cerebellum. At the functional level, cognition, motor coordination, attention, language development, executive functions, memory, social perception and emotion processing are impaired to a variable extent. The long-term development is characterized by disruption and failure in many domains; an age-adequate independency is frequently not achieved. In addition to primary prevention, individual therapeutic interventions and tertiary prevention are warranted; provision of extensive education to affected subjects and their caregivers is crucial. Protective environments are often required to prevent negative consequences such as delinquency, indebtedness or experience of physical/sexual abuse.


Fetal alcohol syndrome Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders Prenatal alcohol exposure 


Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nora Dörrie
    • 1
  • Manuel Föcker
    • 1
    Email author
  • Inga Freunscht
    • 1
  • Johannes Hebebrand
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Universitätsklinikum EssenUniversity of Duisburg-EssenEssenGermany

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