Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: A Literature Review

Principal Author: 
Linda Burnside, PhD and Don Fushs, PhD
Year of Publication: 
2 011

This review summarizes the research literature to date on the issues and challenges of estimating the prevalence of FASD, and presents the prevalence rates reported in several studies from a wide range of jurisdictions and populations. Estimating the prevalence of FASD is a daunting task, whether one is intent on determining the rate of the condition in the general population or with a specific population known to have a higher risk of FASD. There are arguments as to why both themes are important in understanding the rate of FASD, as one approach lends itself to describing the breadth of occurrence throughout the general population, while the other helps to describe the depth of occurrence as it pertains to vulnerable populations, which will be discussed more extensively in this review. In particular, the review focuses on the need for prevalence rates of FASD in child welfare child-in-care populations. This is a population at high risk for FASD due to the frequency that parental substance abuse brings families to the attention of child welfare systems, estimated to be from 40% to 80% of families involved with child welfare (Besinger, Garland, Litrownik, & Landsverk 1999; Curtis & McCullough, 1993; Department of Health and Human Services, 1999; Dore, Doris, & Wright, 1995; McNichol & Tash, 2001; Semidei, Radel, & Nolan, 2001; Young, Gardner, & Dennis,1998). Further, children in child welfare care are a most vulnerable group due to the impact of prenatal alcohol exposure on children’s functioning and the well documented adversities associated with growing up in care.