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Behaviour risk from smoking in pregnancy

Thursday July 25th, 2013

New findings show how smoking during pregnancy is a risk factor for conduct problems in the child.

Rates of child conduct problems are rising internationally, say Professor Gordon Harold and colleagues at Leicester University, UK, in yesterday's (24 July) issue of JAMA Psychiatry.

"Maternal smoking during pregnancy is known to be a risk factor for offspring psychological problems, including attention deficits and conduct problems," the authors add. This could be due to exposure to nicotine, but the underlying mechanisms are not yet well understood.

The team looked at the link by studying children who lived with their mothers and children who were adopted, using figures from three other long-term studies. Conduct problems at ages four to ten years were reported by parents or teachers using a range of behaviour questionnaires.

"A significant association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and offspring conduct problems was observed among children reared by genetically related mothers and genetically unrelated mothers," say the team.

They write that the studies, which have "genetically sensitive" research designs, "suggest that smoking during pregnancy is a prenatal risk factor for offspring conduct problems".

The team were able to take into account several potential risk factors including sex, birth-weight, race/ethnicity, age when adopted, breastfeeding, maternal age and education, family breakdown, parenting practices, and socioeconomic status.

They conclude: "The causal explanation for the association between smoking in pregnancy and offspring conduct problems is not known but may include genetic factors and other prenatal environmental hazards, including smoking itself."

Gaysina, D. et al. Maternal Smoking During Pregnancy and Offspring Conduct Problems: Evidence From 3 Independent Genetically Sensitive Research Designs. JAMA Psychiatry 24 July 2013 doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.127

Tags: Child Health | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Mental Health | Nursing & Midwifery | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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