Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

FAS is the leading known preventable causes of mental retardation and birth defects. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a lifelong condition that causes many physical and mental disabilities, including abnormal facial features, growth deficiencies and central nervous system problems.

Children who are born with fetal alcohol syndrome are likely to develop a wide range of secondary conditions, problems that they were not born with, but can acquire as a result of having FAS.

According to the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, many of the following conditions have been linked to fetal alcohol syndrome:

Mental Health Problems

Research has shown that fetal alcohol syndrome children have an increased risk for developing the following disorders:

  • Cognitive disorders
  • Psychiatric illnesses
  • Psychological dysfunction
  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Conduct disorders
  • Alcohol and drug dependence
  • Depression
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Alcohol Addiction Disease
  • Early Pregnancy

Some FAS children also have been reported to develop anxiety disorders, eating disorders and postraumatic stress disorder.

Disrupted Education

Because children with fetal alcohol syndrome have difficulty getting along with others, poor relationships with teachers and more likely to have problems with truancy, they are also more likely to be suspended, expelled or quit school.

Even the FAS students who remain in school, the experience is not an overall positive due to their attention and behavioral problems.

Legal Troubles

Statistics show that teens and young adults with fetal alcohol syndrome are much more likely to have contact with the police and the judicial system than those who do not have FAS.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, FAS children end up with legal problems because of their difficulty managing their anger and frustration, along with their problems of understanding the motives of others.

Also, children with FAS are easily manipulated by others who may not have their best interests at heart. Many end up taking part in illegal activities without realizing what they are doing.

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Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

Researchers report that individuals with fetal alcohol syndrome are more likely to exhibit inappropriate sexual behavior, such as inappropriate advances and inappropriate touching, than those who do not have FAS. Those fetal alcohol syndrome children who have also been a victim of violence are even more likely to exhibit inappropriate sexual behavior.

Alcohol and Drug Problems

Some studies have found that one-third of individuals with fetal alcohol syndrome develop alcohol and drug problems. More than a half of that one-third end up needing inpatient treatment for their substance abuse problems. Obviously, many children with fetal alcohol syndrome are the children of alcoholics.

Daily Living and Employment Problems

Because of their disabilities and the secondary conditions which they can develop, adults with fetal alcohol syndrome have difficulty in holding jobs and living independently as productive members of society.

Parenting Problems

First, individuals with FAS are more likely to become parents due to a lack of judgment and impulse control. Their alcohol dependence can also lead to unprotected sex and pregnancy, according to the CDC. This can lead to a second generation of children at risk for FAS.

Because adults with FAS are more likely to have grown up in unstable homes, become homeless, run away from home or experienced domestic violence, they have fewer opportunities to learn adequate or functional parenting skills.

Preventing Secondary Conditions

Not all children with fetal alcohol syndrome develop these secondary conditions. Early diagnosis and the implementation of what the CDC calls “protective factors” can lessen or prevent the development of these FAS secondary conditions.


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