The Life Stories of Individuals Who as Adults Were Identified as Experiencing the Effects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Social and Behavioral Sciences
The teratogenic effects of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) can cause irreversible physical and neurological impairments that are present at birth and can have lifelong implications (McGee & Riley, 2007). One’s capacity to interact productively and effectively with one’s surroundings can be influenced further by positive and negative life events and access to appropriate social support services (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2004). Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a term used to describe a group of diagnoses and effects related to prenatal alcohol exposure (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2004). Since the effects of alcohol on a fetus were not recognized formally until the mid- twentieth century, it is likely there are generations of people who are affected by this condition but remain unidentified because they were born before the sequelae of gestational alcohol exposure were understood and well documented (Massey, 2011). Few scholarly works exist that accurately represent the subjective experience of adults who have lived with the unidentified characteristics of prenatal alcohol exposure and the social and cultural factors that influence the development of their individual identity. A narrative-style qualitative research methodology was used to explore the identity of adults living with FASD, in particular those who learned about this during adulthood. The researcher interviewed four adults living with the effects of FASD who became aware of their FASD as adults and reviewed several published autobiographical accounts as additional data sources. Upon analysis, themes of identity emerged and parallels between the life stories of the participants and other studies that address the psycho-social effects of FASD were identified. The research results suggest implications for social work practice, bring positive attention to a disenfranchised group, identify areas of needed study and shed insight into how adults living with the effects of FASD conceptualize their identity.
Deborah Rutman, Ph.D.
Robert Carey, Psy. D.