OBJECTIVE. There has been a limited amount of research on the long-term effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on growth of the infant, and there has been no use of longitudinal growth models. We investigated the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on offspring growth from 1 through 10 years of age by using a repeated-measures growth-curve model.

METHODS. Women were enrolled from a prenatal clinic and interviewed at the end of each trimester of pregnancy about their cocaine, crack, alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and other drug use. Fifty percent of the women were white, and 50% were black. Follow-up assessments occurred at 1, 3, 7, and 10 years of age.

RESULTS. Cross-sectional analyses showed that children exposed to cocaine during the first trimester (n = 99) were smaller on all growth parameters at 7 and 10 years, but not at 1 or 3 years, than the children who were not exposed to cocaine during the first trimester (n = 125). The longitudinal analyses indicated that the growth curves for the 2 groups diverged over time: children who were prenatally exposed to cocaine grew at a slower rate than children who were not exposed. These analyses controlled for other factors associated with child growth.

CONCLUSIONS. To our knowledge, this is the first study of the long-term effects of prenatal cocaine exposure to conduct longitudinal growth-curve analyses using 4 time points in childhood. Children who were exposed to cocaine during the first trimester grew at a slower rate than those who were not exposed. These findings indicate that prenatal cocaine exposure has a lasting effect on child development.

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