Tuesday, January 27

This is why I read the New York Times

I took a really interesting class last term about prenatal and infant development. The professor does a lot of research about depression and fetal/infant outcomes, and also did some work on the 'crack baby' epidemic.

I was shocked when she told us that there is overwhelming evidence that the entire epidemic was little more than a scare tactic.

The basics: sure, crack isn't good for developing fetuses..but neither is smoking or a host of other legal but ill-advised activities.

The New York Times has a great article about a longitudinal study that has basically confirmed what she told us, and delves into the ramifications (past & present) for women.

My two favorite quotes from the article:
"But cocaine use in pregnancy has been treated as a moral issue rather than a health problem, Dr. Frank said. Pregnant women who use illegal drugs commonly lose custody of their children, and during the 1990s many were prosecuted and jailed."


"He added that factors like poor parenting, poverty and stresses like exposure to violence were far more likely to damage a child's intellectual and emotional development — and by the same token, growing up in a stable household, with parents who do not abuse alcohol or drugs, can do much to ease any harmful effects of prenatal drug exposure."

So we shame women for struggling with addiction, and then blame any and all of their children's problems on their prenatal negligence. Turns out all the time and money spent taking babies away from their mothers and jailing women for endangering fetuses could have been better spent on tackling issues such as...who knew..poverty, economic support for women, parenting classes etc.