How kids who were prenatally exposed do as they age“Behavioral Outcomes for Substance-Exposed Adopted Children: Fourteen Years Postadoption.” By Crea, Thomas M.;Barth, Richard P.;Guo, Shenyang.;Brooks, Devon. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry v. 78, 1, p. 11-19 (2008)

This was an interesting longitudinal study of adopted children exposed to prenatal substance abuse. It was expected that substance exposed children would fare significantly worse than non exposed children and that the problem behaviors would increase as they aged. This study followed the children for 14 years. They found that children exposed to drugs or alcohol during pregnancy fared slightly worse overall, but their behavior problems do not appear to be increasing at a faster rate than those of nonexposed children. It appears that the behavior problems in adopted children that result from prenatal alcohol and drug exposure exposure are consolidated early in life and do not generate ongoing deterioration. The report also found that children 3 years or older at adoption appeared to have overall poorer outcomes compared with children adopted at younger ages.

One counterintuitive finding is that children adopted from foster care were faring better than children adopted through private agencies or independently. The researchers hypothesized that this may be because families adopting from foster care had a realistic expectations of the challenges they were likely to face, and adoption research has consistently shown that realistic expectations are directly related to positive outcomes. Realistic expectations for children’s behavior likely affects parents’ perceptions of the severity of their children’s problem behaviors.