Longitudinal ‘Crack Babies’ Study Yields Unexpected Results

August 1, 2013

In 1989, Hallam Hurt, then chair of neonatology at Philadelphia’s Albert Einstein Medical Center, began studying the long-term health prospects of children born to mothers who had smoked crack cocaine during pregnancy. Despite the popular belief that the fetuses exposed to crack in the womb would become developmentally disabled, Hurt’s study found that the IQ of babies whose mothers had smoked crack was not significantly different than those born to mothers who had not, once controlled for factors like home environment. Their academic test scores, attention and functioning scores, and drug use did not differ reliably from controls, though rates from both samples were low relative to the general American population. Hurt’s study concludes that factors beyond cocaine use during pregnancy are culprit for many of these developmental impediments, and it suggests poverty as the source. Contrary to statements that crack babies are “doomed to a life of uncertain suffering, of probable deviance, of permanent inferiority,” Hurt’s study shows that perhaps children exposed to crack cocaine during pregnancy are not “doomed” at birth, but rather that their childhood environmental conditions impact development outcomes which can potentially be altered by social and medical preventative measures. For more information, click here.

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