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Classifying children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure using measures of attention

  • KARA T. LEE (a1), SARAH N. MATTSON (a1) and EDWARD P. RILEY (a1)

Abstract

Deficits in attention are a hallmark of the effects of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure but although such deficits have been described in the literature, no attempt to use measures of attention to classify children with such exposure has been described. Thus, the current study attempted to classify children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure (ALC) and non-exposed controls (CON), using four measures of attentional functioning: the Freedom from Distractibility index from the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children–Third Edition (WISC–III), the Attention Problems scale from the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), and omission and commission error scores from the Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA). Data from two groups of children were analyzed: children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure and non-exposed controls. Children in the alcohol-exposed group included both children with or without fetal alcohol syndrome. Groups were matched on age, sex, ethnicity, and social class. Data were analyzed using backward logistic regression. The final model included the Freedom from Distractibility index from the WISC–III and the Attention Problems scale from the CBCL. The TOVA variables were not retained in the final model. Classification accuracy was 91.7% overall. Specifically, 93.3% of the alcohol-exposed children and 90% of the control children were accurately classified. These data indicate that children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure can be distinguished from non-exposed controls with a high degree of accuracy using 2 commonly used measures of attention. (JINS, 2004, 10, 271–277.)

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Corresponding author

Reprint requests to: Sarah N. Mattson, Ph.D., 6363 Alvarado Court, Suite 209, San Diego, CA 92120. E-mail: smattson@sunstroke.sdsu.edu

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