Scientific letters

Childhood behavioural and developmental disorders - association with maternal alcohol consumption in Cape Town, South Africa

Elizabeth Katwan, Colleen Adnams, Leslie London


Current maternal alcohol consumption, especially binge drinking, is strongly associated with childhood behavioural and/or developmental disorders (BDDs) in a population attending tertiary hospital ambulatory services. BDDs were also associated with maternal alcohol use 6 months before pregnancy. An association with BDDs could not be conclusively demonstrated for drinking during pregnancy, but this may have been influenced by under-reporting and reduced study power due to misclassification of exposure. We cannot rule out the a priori suspicion that some mild BDDs in children in the Western Cape could be undiagnosed fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Nonetheless, the study highlighted the important impact of current maternal alcohol use on behaviour and development of children. Future research on the impact of maternal alcohol use on childhood development should include examination of environmental and social factors contributing to this increased risk. Upstream interventions aimed at reducing alcohol-related harms may also contribute to reducing the burden of BDDs.

Authors' affiliations

Elizabeth Katwan, University of Cape Town

Colleen Adnams,

Leslie London,

Full Text



Maternal alcohol consumption; Alcohol-related behavioral and developmental disorders; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2011;101(10):724,726-727.

Article History

Date submitted: 2011-06-14
Date published: 2011-09-27

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