Is alcohol binge drinking in early and late pregnancy associated with behavioural and emotional development at age 7 years?

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate associations of maternal binge drinking in early and late pregnancy with child behavioural and emotional development at age seven. It was hypothesised that late exposure is associated with more negative outcomes than early exposure. Differences were expected on the continuous outcome measures, but not on above cutoff scale scores. Data were derived from the Danish National Birth Cohort. Three exposure groups were defined according to binge drinking from three interviews regarding binge episodes in early, middle and late pregnancy. A ‘no binge’ group included women with no binge episodes reported in any of the interviews, the ‘early bingers’ reported episodes in the first interview only, and the ‘late bingers’ in the last part of pregnancy only. The outcome measure was the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) used as continuous externalising/internalising scores and above cutoff hyperactivity/inattention, conduct, emotional and peer problems scores. Only women with full information concerning binge drinking from the three interviews, together with full-scale SDQ information on their children at age seven and being term-born, were included in the study (N = 37,315). After adjustment for maternal education, psychiatric diagnoses, age and smoking, children exposed to binge drinking in early and late pregnancy had significantly higher mean externalizing scores at age seven than unexposed children, an effect albeit much less for early binge drinking (relative change in mean 1.02, CI 1.00–1.05) than for late binge drinking (relative change in mean 1.21, CI 1.04–1.42). No associations were observed for any of the above cutoff outcomes. Exposure to binge drinking in early and late pregnancy is associated with elevated externalising scores, particularly so in late pregnancy. No increased risk for any of the above cutoff scale scores was observed.

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Acknowledgments

The study was supported financially by the Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen; Ludvig og Sara Elsass Foundation; Aase og Ejnar Danielsens Foundation; Carl J. Becker’s Foundation; the Lundbeck Foundation; Børne- og Ungdomspsykiatrisk Selskab i Danmark; Dagmar Marshalls Foundation; The A.P. Møller Foundation for the Advancement of Medical Science; and Direktør Jakob Madsens Legat.

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There are no declared conflict of interests for any of the authors.

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Correspondence to Janni Niclasen.

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Niclasen, J., Andersen, AM.N., Strandberg-Larsen, K. et al. Is alcohol binge drinking in early and late pregnancy associated with behavioural and emotional development at age 7 years?. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 23, 1175–1180 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-013-0511-x

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Keywords

  • Prenatal alcohol exposure
  • SDQ
  • Binge drinking
  • Danish National Birth Cohort
  • Timing of exposure
  • Strengths and difficulties questionnaire