The “Crack Baby” Myth

Does prenatal exposure to crack produce mutant babies, or is reality a bit more complicated?

A PowerPoint presentation begins with quotes about “crack babies,” humans exposed to cocaine during gestation. One quote suggests that crack babies will have IQs around 50, while another laments their permanent inferiority. The facts that follow, however, disprove the myth of crack babies.

The woman responsible for this study is Dr. Hallam Hunt, who recently concluded a quarter-century long study on the effects of crack on human development. Receiving nearly $8 million in federal funding over 25 years, the study has followed 224 children—nearly all African American and of low-income households. (The number has fell to 110 children over the years.) Dr. Hunt found that other factors, most notably poverty and its accompanying problems, have an equal or larger effect on a child’s development than a mother taking crack during pregnancy.

Hunt began to suspect poverty was a more significant factor than crack four years into study. An IQ test of both the exposed and non-exposed group revealed IQs all hovering around 80, a good 10-30 points lower than the age-group average. The effects of poverty grew starker as the children got older:

As the children grew, the researchers did many evaluations to tease out environmental factors that could be affecting their development. On the upside, they found that children being raised in a nurturing home – measured by such factors as caregiver warmth and affection and language stimulation—were doing better than kids in a less nurturing home. On the downside, they found that 81 percent of the children had seen someone arrested; 74 percent had heard gunshots; 35 percent had seen someone get shot; and 19 percent had seen a dead body outside—and the kids were only 7 years old at the time.

This study by no means suggests that crack is harmless; cocaine can indirectly cause premature labor, and crack use suggests an abnormal home environment. Moreover, some research suggests lower cognitive functioning in crack-exposed humans. No difference existed, however, in areas such as behavioral skills (including attention) and drug use. It seems crack occupies a place similar to other harmful substances instead of being some unique mutant baby creator.

Below is an excellent New York Times video on the fallacies and realities of “Crack Babies”:


“‘Crack Baby’ study ends with unexpected but clear result,” Susan FitzGerald, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Todd Faulkenberry

An avid supporter of Arsenal FC and a recent graduate of Amherst College, Todd Faulkenberry is now a statistic of America’s unemployment rate. When he isn’t curled up in his bed watching a new television drama, you can find Todd feigning productivity at the Barnes & Noble in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Commentary Ticker

  • Google Glass Lets You Take Photos With Your Brain
    July 12, 2014 | 4:02 pm

    If you haven’t heard, electroencephalograms (EEGs) have been getting better. Way better. Artificial limbs and even video game controllers are utilizing the non-invasive brain-wave monitoring method to guide computers by thought. Now English startup This Place has developed a way to bring the technology to Google Glass, allowing Google’s wearable to read your mind. Well, […]

  • Android Art: The Accidental Selfies of Google Art Project
    July 5, 2014 | 11:11 am

    Within the cultural centers of the world lurks a mechanical beast draped in silver spinning madly and capturing everything, sometimes even itself. In 2011 Google created the Art Project, an initiative to bring their Street View technology inside the cultural epicenters of the world. Google enlisted 17 world-class museums in short time. Institutions such as […]

  • Purple Mountunes Majesty: The Most Patriotic Playlist
    July 4, 2014 | 12:13 pm

    A while ago, Paul Lamere of The Echo Nest, a music-analysis company, took to finding each state’s most distinctive, yet popular, artist in a viral article. Spotify took note, purchasing Echo Nest for their analytical talent. Together, they’ve released a blog post documenting each state’s most distinctively American song creating a patriotic playlist for the […]

  • Emojinealogy: Where the Heck Emojis Come From
    July 2, 2014 | 3:10 pm

    On June 16th, the Unicode Consortium announced that 250 new emoji would be added to the list of symbols available to people’s cellphones and computer devices. The list of the new symbols can be found on Emojipedia. And no, the list doesn’t include the much needed minority representation, but it does include your favorite (?) […]

  • The Decline and Fall of the American Mall
    June 24, 2014 | 9:07 pm

    For ages, the shopping mall was as essential to the architecture of suburbia as Levittowns and freeways. But in an era of online shopping, these epicenters of brick and mortar yesteryear are quietly being abandoned across the country. While the U.S. currently has around 1,500, the number may soon shrink, and rapidly, leading to abandoned […]

  • RSSArchive for Commentary Ticker »

Join our mailing list!

Trending on The Airspace