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Is smoking during pregnancy a risk factor for psychopathology in young children? A methodological caveat and report on preschoolers

Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Children's Memorial Hospital, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Mary Ann and J. Milburn Smith, Child Health Research Program, Children's Memorial Research Center, Chicago, IL 60614, USA.
Journal of Pediatric Psychology (Impact Factor: 2.91). 01/2011; 36(1):10-24. DOI: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsq044
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT While studies of the effects of prenatal smoking on child psychopathology have found positive relationships, most studies (1) failed to control for a range of correlates of maternal smoking that could affect children's behavior; (2) have been conducted with school-age rather than younger children, so it is not clear when such problems emerge; and (3) have not examined the effects on internalizing problems.
This study examined the effects of prenatal smoke exposure on behaviors associated with externalizing and internalizing behavior problems and negative temperament in a diverse community sample of 679 4-year-olds.
After controlling for correlates that include socioeconomic status, life stress, family conflict, maternal depression, maternal scaffolding skills, mother-child attachment, child negative affect and effortful control, smoking during pregnancy was no longer associated with child behavior or emotional problems.
Future studies need to control for a wide range of covariates of maternal smoking.

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    • "One way to separate these mechanisms is to utilize research designs that can separate genetic and environmental influences on child development (Knopik 2009; Lynskey, Agrawal, & Heath, 2010). Such genetically informed twin and adoption studies have suggested that unmeasured maternal factors associated with smoking during pregnancy, and not prenatal smoking per se, may account for behavioral problems in early childhood (Lavigne et al., 2011), behavioral difficulties in adolescence (Kuja-Halkola, D'Onofrio, Iliadou, Långström, & Lichtenstein, 2010), and the later development of criminal behavior in adulthood (D'Onofrio et al., 2010). Stated differently, maternal psychological factors associated with both the decision to continue smoking during pregnancy and the parenting behaviors after birth may confound the relationship between pregnancy smoking and child behavior problems. "
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