Executive function and mental health in adopted children with a history of recreational drug exposures

Brian J. Piper, Hilary M. Gray, Selena M. Corbett, Melissa A. Birkett, Jacob Raber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Adoptive children are at increased risk for problematic behaviors but the origin of these individual differences in neurobehavioral function is unclear. This investigation examined whether adopted children with prenatal exposure to a wide variety of recreational drugs exhibited higher scores (i.e. more problems) with executive function and psychiatric symptomology. Caregivers of children ages 5 to 18 completed an online survey with items about use of alcohol, nicotine, or methamphetamine during pregnancy followed by the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF, N = 437 including 59 adoptive parents) or the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL, N = 549 including 54 adoptive parents). Relative to a comparison group of children raised by their biological parents, adoptive children that were polysubstance exposed during prenatal development exhibited higher rates of academic difficulties and were behind their classmates in math and reading. Adoptive children had statistically and clinically significant higher BRIEF ratings and this pattern was similar for boys and girls. CBCL ratings were significantly increased in adoptive children, particularly for Externalizing and Attention problems. Adoptive children with a history of polysubstance exposures including alcohol, nicotine, and methamphetamine are at heightened risk for difficulties with executive function as well as various psychopathologies. These findings suggest that increased monitoring to identify and implement remediation strategies may be warranted for adopted children with a history of in utero drug exposures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere110459
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 22 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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