Experiences of living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: a systematic review and synthesis of qualitative data


Helena Domeij, Gunilla Fahlström, Göran Bertilsson, Monica Hultcrantz, Heather Munthe‐Kaas, Christina Nehlin Gordh, Gert Helgesson
First published: 26 February 2018



To identify and assess available evidence from qualitative studies exploring experiences of individuals living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) or those living with a child with FASD, as well as experiences of interventions aimed at supporting individuals with FASD and their families.


A systematic literature search was conducted in six electronic databases: PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and Scopus. Included studies were analysed using manifest content analysis. Methodological limitations and confidence in the evidence were assessed using a modified version of the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme and the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation–Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative Research approach respectively.


Findings from 18 studies show that individuals with FASD experience a variation of disabilities, ranging from somatic problems, high pain tolerance, destructive behaviour, hyperactivity, and aggressiveness, to social problems with friendship, school attendance, and maintenance of steady employment. Most studies reported parents’ experiences with FASD; parenting was viewed as a lifelong engagement and that the whole family is isolated and burdened because of FASD. People with FASD feel that their difficulties affect their daily life in a limiting way and make them feel different from others.


From the perspective of primarily parents, individuals with FASD and their parents face many different difficulties, for which they need societal support.

What this paper adds

  • Individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) feel their difficulties make them different from others.
  • Parents think of their parenting as a lifelong engagement.
  • There is a shortage of studies investigating experiences of children with FASD.
  • There is a shortage of studies investigating experiences of interventions given to individuals with FASD.

Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/dmcn.13696

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