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Effects of TV, Drug Exposures in Early Life May Be Long-Lasting
Date:5/3/2010

Fetal and early childhood environment helps shape later outcomes, studies show

MONDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- A group of new studies demonstrate just how critical prenatal, maternal and environmental factors can be in shaping children's later health, both emotional and physical.

Among other things, the studies found that kids who stayed glued to a TV screen too long or were born to moms who smoked or took antidepressants during pregnancy had raised risks for behavioral and other problems later on in life.

"Early childhood is critical for the development of a multitude of skills," noted Richard E. A. Loren, clinical director of the Center for ADHD and assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. "It's not set in stone but certainly children that do better in early years continue to do better, and children who get behind have to work harder to get caught up -- and some don't."

"We're learning how many critical variables [have an] impact on this period of prenatal development and postnatal behavior," added Dr. Kathryn J. Kotrla, associate dean and chairwoman of psychiatry and behavioral science at Texas A& M Health Science Center College of Medicine Round Rock campus.

The reports appear in the May issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

In one study, researchers at the University of Montreal assessed how much TV children were watching at age 2-1/2 years, then correlated that with behavior and health in the fourth grade.

Each additional hour watching TV was linked with declines in classroom engagement, math achievement (though not reading), and physical activity, as well as increases in soft drink and snack consumption, body mass index, and the tendency to be bullied by classmates.

Disturbingly, Loren pointed out, many of the children were actually watching TV at rates below those reco
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