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Neuropsychological Characteristics of Young Children from High-Density Alcoholism Families: A Three-Year Follow-Up

Montserrat Corral, Socorro Rodríguez Holguín, Fernando Cadaveira

Objective: We performed a follow-up study of a group of young children from high-density alcoholism families (HD children), who were first assessed about 3.5 years ago, with the aim of evaluating verbal span and visuospatial abilities (which differed significantly between HD and control [C] children at the first assessment), as well as other neuropsychological measures. Method: In this second assessment, 22 boys and girls were evaluated. They were comparable in family income and parents’ level of education. The 12 HD children had an alcoholic father and at least two other alcoholic relatives, whereas the 10 C children had no family history of alcoholism in either the first or second generation. A neuropsychological battery was set up with standardized tasks to measure attention, memory, visuospatial and executive functions. Results: Analysis revealed significant Group × Assessment interactions in the digit span subtest where high-density children increased their performance until it reached that of the control children, and in the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) where high-density children did not show the same improvement as the C children with maturation. A main effect was also observed for group factor in perseverative responses of the WCST. Conclusions: High-density children attain the same level of performance as control children for verbal span, but differences between groups increase over time for executive functioning as measured by the WCST. These results are considered in the context of the developmental delay hypothesis. The small sample size, however, means further studies will be necessary to confirm our findings. (J. Stud. Alcohol 64: 195-199, 2003)