Effects of Alcohol on Children

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Updated: May 16, 2022
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Alcohol has a major impact on the development of the fetus. A mother who drinks any amount of alcohol while pregnant with a child increases the chances of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder because the fetus metabolizes alcohol at a much slower rate than an adult does. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder affects a child’s cognitive development, how they interact with people, and causes problems with the brain and central nervous system.

Cognitive Development

Memory and learning impairments have been frequently reported in cases where moderate to heavy prenatal alcohol exposure have been recorded.

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In each of these cases verbal learning and memory have had a significant decrease when compared to a controlled group. They showed problems with following general intellectual functioning; information processing speed, verbal and nonverbal learning, memory, attention, executive functioning, and visual-spatial perception (O’Leary). As they conducted tests and studies they have found that the neuropsychological impairments need to be investigated with in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder because within different diagnoses of the spectrum they have found that each group reacts differently with intellectual functions. Children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) the most severe part of the spectrum have a significant decrease in performance of general intellectual functioning than someone with a lesser degree. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome diagnosis is based on three criteria: growth deficiency, central nervous disorders, and a distinctive pattern of abnormal facial features (Mattson 2001). Other disorders can have the same criteria show up, but it is more deficient in FAS then it is in the other types.

Interactions with People

Many children who suffer from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder have a hard time functioning in society. Many are unable to express how they’re feeling have short attention spans, and get bored easily if what they are talking about doesn’t catch their interest. School is harder for them then it is for children whose parents did not drink. They lack appropriate social boundaries and fail to learn from the consequences of their actions. This makes it hard for them to learn because if there is a child in a class who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and they like to talk it won’t matter what consequences the teacher gives them because they have a hard time learning. There short term memory is also affected which can have an impact on their problem solving and social life.

Brain and Central Nervous system

How alcohol affects the development of the central nervous system is extremely complicated but is strongly related to the overall decrease in the white matter of the brain. With the help of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Electroencephalography (EEG), positron emission tomography (PET), and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) researchers are able to study living brains of alcohol-affected children in a noninvasive fashion (Mattson 2001). Major parts of the brain that have been studied are the basal ganglia, corpus callosum, cerebellum, and the hippocampus. In their studies they have found that in the hippocampus the absolute volume in the left temporal lobe is smaller than that of the corresponding area in the right temporal lobe. The reduction on the hippocampal volume is related to the reduction in the brains overall size.


Alcohol affects many things during pregnancy and can cause major problems throughout a child’s life. Its has no cure but Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is something that can be totally prevented by not drinking alcohol while pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, of planning on being pregnant. It has a significant impact on the function of how the brain works and if the brain has a problem that problem affects how the body works and develops.

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Effects of Alcohol on Children. (2019, Nov 16). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/effects-of-alcohol-on-children/