Alcohol and Child Development: Drinking During Pregnancy

The question of drinking alcohol and child development can raise strong emotion. Does drinking alcohol during pregnancy have any impact on child development? What about smoking during pregnancy? These are very important questions.

I. The Study

The study involved 1,006 children. It began during the prenatal period. That is, from between 22 and 25 weeks of pregnancy. What would be the effects of drinking and/or smoking during pregnancy? Specifically, on children’s motor and cognitive skills?

alcohol and child developmentNegrão and colleagues evaluated the infants at birth. They then reevaluated them during their second year of life. To do so, they used sub-scales of the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (Bayley-III). Those measured gross motor, fine motor, and cognitive skills.

The researchers placed mothers into one of the following categories. It was based on their behavior during pregnancy.

    1. Neither drinking nor smoking (NC).
    2. Drinking, or alcohol consumption, but not smoking (AC).
    3. Smoking tobacco (tobacco “consumption”) but not drinking (TC).
    4. Doing both (ACTC).

alcohol and child development

Only the children of the ACTC mothers had a higher risk of fine motor skills delay. And there was no delay in gross motor skills or cognitive skills. That was in comparison to the NC group.

Researchers also analyzed separately alcohol (AC) and tobacco use (TC). Again, it was in comparison to the NC group. They found that neither was associated with either delayed motor or cognitive skills.

II. Resources: Alcohol and Child Development

Web Pages

alcohol and child developmentDrinking in Pregnancy Beneficial to Children if Light?

Pregnant Women and Drinking Advice.

Drinking During Pregnancy. What are Its Effects?  

Drinking While Pregnant and Later Child Growth.


Negrão, M. et al. Association between tobacco and/or alcohol consumption during pregnancy and infant development. Braz J Med Biol Res, 2021, 54(1).  

Popular Books and Videos

Alcohol and Pregnancy. NY: InJoy, 2016. (eVideo)

alcohol and child developmentGeddes, L. Bumpology. The Myth-busting Pregnancy Book for Parents. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Chasnoff, I. The Mystery of Risk. Chicago: NTI, 2011.

Simmons, J. et al. Alcohol & Pregnancy. Longmont, CO: InJoy, 2010. (DVD)

Smoking, Alcohol, Drugs and Pregnancy. Show Low, AZ: True to Life Prod, 2017. (DVD)


This website gives no advice on alcohol and child development. So please see your doctor for that.