The legacy of prenatal exposure to alcohol : Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, the New Zealand situation : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Social Anthropology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
'Alcohol', the strongest teratogen known to human-kind, is a commonly used legal drug which has the ability to cross the placenta and interfere with the development of the foetus resulting in a birth defect known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). This thesis looks at the historical knowledge base surrounding prenatal exposure to alcohol and presents the latest biomedical information available on FASD at the time of writing. The sub-discipline of medical anthropology, the associated methodology and it appropriateness for this kind of research is discussed. A historical look at the introduction and proliferation of alcohol in New Zealand from the macro-micro perspective, and James O'Connors' (1974) political modes of operation are presented, offering a broad analysis, of a dynamic political process involved with the lack of acknowledgement or action on the part of New Zealand governments. New Zealand specific research on women's drinking patterns, clinical practise and the experiences of those trying to obtain a diagnosis in regard to FASD within New Zealand are presented. Behavioural profiles pertaining to my participants' FASD charges are offered to the reader, all of which indicate serious repercussions for New Zealand society as a whole. Finally the labelling argument relating to the diagnostic terminology surrounding Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is discussed. The original contribution this thesis offers aside from being the first New Zealand anthropological PhD research on the subject of FASD surrounds education and action research. Knowledge creates empowerment and can facilitate individual change. My thesis has been a dialectical process whereby the more I learned from those care-giving for FASD individuals, the more I have been able to feed back to others and act in my capacity as a critical medical anthropologist, using action anthropology as a means to advocate for families affected by FASD, those whose voices of expertise by way of experience, are seldom if ever heard or listened too [sic].