Semin Speech Lang 1998; 19(2): 147-165
DOI: 10.1055/s-2008-1064042
© 1998 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc.

In Utero Cocaine Exposure and Language Development

Michelle Mentis
  • Department of Communication Disorders, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
15 May 2008 (online)


A growing body of literature suggests that in utero cocaine exposure may place a child at risk for impaired language development. Because the field of gestational drug exposure and its effects on communicative development is young, the research is still limited and the data are contradictory, plagued by many methodological problems. The accumulating evidence, however, suggests that the development of specific aspects of language may be compromised in a percentage of children and that outcome is affected by a wide range of prenatal and postnatal biological and environmental factors. The data also suggest that deficits are best identified through the use of focused test batteries and may be evident only under stressful or difficult conditions. This article provides a critique and general overview of the literature on the early communicative and language development of prenatally cocaine-exposed children. Potential reasons for compromised language development and the clinical implications of these findings are discussed.