Association of adverse childhood experiences and neurodevelopmental disorders in people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and non-FASD controls



Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a highly prevalent lifelong disorder with high rates of comorbid neurodevelopmental disorders. Individuals with FASD are often exposed to abuse, neglect and foster home placements which have uncertain effects on the lifelong course of FASD. In this study we compare the prevalence of adverse childhood events (ACEs) and neurodevelopmental disorders in subjects with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and non-FASD controls.


A cross-sectional chart review of patients referred to a regional developmental center was used to identify people with FASD and non-FASD controls. We recorded the number of ACEs and neurodevelopmental disorders in each patient’s chart. The most common diagnoses were attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, comprehension deficits, sleep disorders, and cognitive impairments. T-tests and a regression equation were utilized to determine significant differences between the groups.


The review identified 203 subjects, 98 with FASD and 105 non-FASD controls. Group mean age was 8.6 years and 64.5% were male. People with FASD were more likely to have any ACEs (mean 5.3) with ACE scores 3.7 points higher than non-FASD controls (mean 1.69) (t = 11.29; p < .001). Increased ACEs were associated with increased rates of neurodevelopmental disorders for people with FASD (R = .179, p = .026) but not for non-FASD controls (R = .130, p = .094).


Both FASD and subsequent exposure to ACEs are associated with increased risk for development of comorbid neurodevelopmental disorders. Prevention of ACEs during childhood may decrease risk for development of comorbid neurodevelopmental disorders.

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