Strengthening the case: Prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with increased risk for conduct disorder

Elizabeth R. Disney, William Lacono, Matthew McGue, Erin Tully, Lisa Legrand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between alcohol exposure in pregnancy and offspring conduct disorder symptoms in adolescence and to examine how much this increasingly known association may be mediated by maternal and paternal externalizing diagnoses, including lifetime maternal and paternal alcohol and drug abuse/dependence diagnoses as well as antisocial disorders. Few other studies have examined the contribution of these diagnoses across both parents. METHOD. A population sample of 1252 adolescents (53.8% female;drawn from the Minnesota Twin Family Study) as well as both of their parents completed structured diagnostic interviews to generate lifetime psychiatric diagnoses; mothers were also retrospectively interviewed about alcohol and nicotine use during pregnancy. Linear regression models were used to test the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on adolescents' conduct-disorder symptoms. RESULTS. Prenatal exposure to alcohol was associated with higher levels of conduct-disorder symptoms in offspring, even after statistically controlling for the effects of parental externalizing disorders (illicit substance use disorders, alcohol dependence, and antisocial/behavioral disorders), prenatal nicotine exposure, monozygosity, gestational age, and birth weight. CONCLUSIONS. Prenatal alcohol exposure contributes to increased risk for conduct disorder in offspring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1225-e1230
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Conduct disorder
  • Fetal alcohol effects
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure


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