fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), pattern of physical, developmental, and psychological abnormalities seen in babies born to mothers who consumed alcohol during pregnancy. The abnormalities include low birthweight, facial deformities, and mental retardation, and there appears to be an association with impulsive behavior, anxiousness, and an inability on the part of the affected children to understand the consequences of their actions. When some but not all of these abnormalities are present, they are referred to as fetal alcohol effects (FAE). FAE has been observed in children of mothers who drank as little as two drinks per week during pregnancy. FAS affects 1 to 2 babies per 1,000 born worldwide. Many require constant lifelong supervision and end up institutionalized because of dysfunction in the family. FAS was first defined as a syndrome in 1973, although it has been observed for centuries. See also alcoholism.
See M. Dorris, The Broken Cord: A Family's Ongoing Struggle with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (1989).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.