Smoking Linked to Behaviour Problems in Children

By Caroline Fraser

pregnant-women-quit-smokingNew reports suggest that women who smoke when they are pregnant not only increase the chances of their children developing health issues but behavioural problems too.

The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health claims that children as young as three years old can be affected by bad behaviour due to the mother smoking while she is pregnant. Research carried out by Kate Pickett from the Department of Health Sciences at Hull York Medical School, University of York, has asked mothers to score their child’s behaviour in relation to how their smoking habit was categorised; either light or heavy, which was dependent on how many cigarettes the pregnant mother smoked each day.  Mothers were asked to pay particular attention to areas of behavioural disturbances such as psychical fights with other children and the frequency of arguments with adults.

The study suggested that daughters of both light and heavy smokers were much more likely to show early signs of behavioural problems by the time they were only three years old than girls whose mothers did not smoke.  The study also showed that smoking whilst pregnant could damage the structure and development of the foetal brain at such a crucial stage in a young child’s development.

With the foetal brain development of boys being more sensitive than girls, it could explain why 80% 0f sons of light smokers are more likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorders than those mothers who did not smoke at all during their pregnancy.