Katherine Flannigan, Aamena Kapasi, Jacqueline Pei, Isabel Murdoch, Gail Andrew, Carmen Rasmussen,Characterizing adverse childhood experiences among children and adolescents with prenatal alcohol exposure and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Child Abuse & Neglect, Volume 112, 2021,104888, ISSN 0145-2134,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2020.104888.
Individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) face elevated rates of postnatal environmental adversity across the lifespan.
We explored early adversity among children and adolescents with PAE.
Participants and setting
Our sample included 333 children and adolescents with PAE assessed at a Canadian FASD diagnostic clinic, 66% of whom were diagnosed with FASD.
Data were collected retrospectively via record review, and adversity was measured using the Adverse Childhood Experiences Questionnaire (ACE-Q).
Participants experienced high levels of adversity (mean ACE score of 3.4), which increased with age, mental health comorbidityes, and number of living placements. Common ACEs included: not being raised by both biological parents (97.3%), caregiver disruption (88.5%), and exposure to household substance use (69.7%). Females had significantly higher rates of sexual abuse than males (p < .001, ø = -0.18). There was no difference in total ACE scores between participants diagnosed with FASD versus those not diagnosed, but participants with FASD were less likely to live with both biological parents (p < .001, ø = .19) or to have been exposed to household mental health problems (p = .007, ø = -0.15).
Children and adolescents with PAE experience high rates of early adversity. Practice and policy initiatives are needed to improve early detection of ACEs among children with PAE and PAE among children with ACEs. Targeted supports are needed to strengthen the early caregiving environment and mitigate the risks of adversity to support healthy outcomes for individuals with PAE and FASD.