Many children with histories of chronic early maltreatment within a care-giving relationship have been prenatally exposed to alcohol and/or drugs. The timing of the exposure and the intensity of prenatal exposure can have differing effects on the developing fetus, psychological functioning, and cognitive functions. These effects can sometimes be very subtle and not noticed or misinterpreted.
For example, some children are described as oppositional and defiant when what we may be observing is a cognitive processing and developmental deficit. As an example of this, the child may be perfectly capable of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. However, if you put a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, a plate, knife, and bag of bread on the table and ask the child to tell you how to do this, you may find that the child had great difficulty doing so. This is a not uncommon experience with children prenatally exposed to chemicals. Understanding this cognitive processing deficit can be helpful for teachers and parents and ensure that the child's behavior is not misinterpreted.
Becker-Weidman, A., & Shell, D., (Eds), Attachment Parenting, Jason Aronson, Lanham, MD, 2010.