Evaluating a Research Study on Prenatal Cocaine Exposure: Potential Dangers or Not

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This evaluation addresses a recent research study, conducted by Arendt & Farkas et al, titled the "Cognitive Outcomes of Preschool Children with Prenatal Cocaine Exposure." …

Introduction

2448). The study was conducted by doctors at an urban teaching hospital. The research subjects included three hundred and seventy-six pre-school children. Of these children, one hundred and ninety experienced fetal brain exposure to cocaine. One hundred and eight-six did not experience such exposure. The main testing standards were related to intellectual quotient measurements; more specifically, the study employed the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scales of Intelligence-Revised measurements for determinations of outcomes. This is a standard measurement authority and there is little debate about its use and efficacy. The findings were rather interesting.

As an initial matter, this study was pursued because of inconsistent results regarding the longer-term consequences of prenatal cocaine exposure. In the media, it is common to hear about definitive correlations and relationships; for purposes of academic evaluation, however, the correlations have proven less definitive empirically. The findings in this case, dealing only with the effects noticed in a child's initial four-year lifespan, were seemingly mild in certain ways. In many respects, the study found that fetal brain exposure to cocaine did not cause a lower full-scale intelligence quotient, did not cause lower scores or verbal performance generally, and did not cause any significant differences in performance. On the other hand, there were some findings which suggested that the potential dangers of prenatal drug exposure, in this case cocaine, were real. For instance, “prenatal cocaine exposure was related to small but significant deficits on several subscales” (Arendt & Farkas et al, 2004: p. 2452). ...
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