Behind the headlines: Is behaviour linked to mums' smoking?

Smoking during pregnancy increases mothers' risks of having a child with behavioural problems, according to media reports.

Support to quit smoking is vital
Support to quit smoking is vital

Professor Kate Pickett and colleagues from the University of York examined data on the smoking habits of 14,000 mothers and on the behaviour of their children.

Their analysis controlled for factors likely to influence the results, including the mother's level of education and socio-economic status, family stability and evidence of problematic parenting.

Boys whose mothers smoked heavily during pregnancy were almost twice as likely to display behavioural problems.

Daughters of smokers were significantly more likely to display behavioural problems by the time they were three years old.

What can we learn from the study?
Professor Pickett and her team believe that heavy smoking in pregnancy may be indicative of wider problems.

'Persistent and, in particular, heavy smoking throughout pregnancy may be a useful marker of families who need holistic support beyond pregnancy for a range of maternal psychosocial problems, parenting and everyday difficulties which continue to characterise these family environments three years after birth,' the researchers said.

'Such support, in addition to targeted smoking cessation interventions, may minimise associated child behaviour problems.'

What do other researchers say?
Professor Alan Maryon-Davies, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said the study added to previous work to investigate the effect of smoking on brain development.

'The assumption is that it is linked to chemicals from smoke reaching the fetus,' he said. 'But, the study raises more questions than it answers and we need to look more closely at what might be causing the behavioural changes.

'The research provides more evidence to support advising women very strongly not to smoke during pregnancy and before pregnancy,' Professor Maryon-Davies added.

'It is useful for them to realise that there may be long-term implications for their children - providing yet another reason for mothers to quit smoking before they become pregnant.'

  • J Epidemiol Community Health Online 2009

Informing Patients

  • Smoking in pregnancy increases behavioural problems in three year olds.
  • Heavy smoking in pregnancy may point to wider psychosocial problems.
  • Supporting mothers to quit smoking before pregnancy will benefit both the mother and the child.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Staff and patients attacked in 'serious incident' at GP practice

Staff and patients attacked in 'serious incident' at GP practice

Four members of staff and four patients have been injured in a 'serious incident'...

NHS bosses to rethink 'what can realistically be delivered by PCNs'

NHS bosses to rethink 'what can realistically be delivered by PCNs'

NHS England has promised to consider 'what can realistically be delivered' by primary...

PCNs: How could the network DES draft service specifications change?

PCNs: How could the network DES draft service specifications change?

Dr Simon Hodes explains how he thinks NHS England could change the network contract...

Government stripped of power to suspend pensions for doctors facing unproven charges

Government stripped of power to suspend pensions for doctors facing unproven charges

Controversial powers allowing the government to suspend pension payments for doctors...

RCGP pulls plug on oil and gas conference after protests

RCGP pulls plug on oil and gas conference after protests

The RCGP has cancelled an oil and gas exploration conference booked to take place...

BMA to hold special conference after GP leaders reject 2020 contract offer

BMA to hold special conference after GP leaders reject 2020 contract offer

GP leaders have voted to hold a special conference after rejecting a package of contract...