Prenatal exposure to crack-cocaine. Language and adaptive behaviors in early childhood: Birth through 8 years of age

Rae Mary Fallon, Fordham University


This study deals with a child born with crack-cocaine in her system, living in a stable foster home, and enrolled in an early intervention program. The study describes her language and adaptive behaviors from birth through 8 years of age. During the duration of the study there were 3 basic generations of research. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the children born with crack-cocaine in their systems were initially identified as severely biologically damaged and referred to as “doomed and damned.” As these studies began to be held to rigorous scientific standards, it began to be believed that there had been a “rush to judgment” and the problems might be minimal. The consensus at the present time is that the drug exposure may affect the brain in more subtle ways than originally suspected and the child may display learning and behavior difficulties as he or she matures. Case study methodology was used to collect data and gain insights into adaptive behaviors, self-help skills, and literacy behaviors manifested by this child. Data were collected and analyzed within the framework of 3 settings: home, school, and community. The analysis of the adaptive behavior emphasized 3 areas: compliance, noncompliance, and daily living skills. The analysis of literacy skills emphasized 4 areas: reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. The findings of this investigation generated several hypotheses that warrant further investigation. A child initially may display behaviors that may make her difficult to care for and may cause negative cycles in interactions between the child and her caregivers. Each child's reaction to the drug exposure is unique although there may be similarities in behavioral manifestations. Multiple factors are involved in each prenatally exposed child's adaptation to her environment. The language and adaptive behaviors of a child prenatally exposed to crack-cocaine may be delayed but a stable home and an infant intervention program may help the child acquire age-appropriate skills. In order to discover the true impact of prenatal exposure, research must continue to monitor the progress of these children at various developmental levels.

Subject Area

Early childhood education|Special education|Linguistics|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Fallon, Rae Mary, "Prenatal exposure to crack-cocaine. Language and adaptive behaviors in early childhood: Birth through 8 years of age" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3021700.