Conduct Disorders associated with Maternal Smoking.

A new study by the has examined the relationship between maternal smoke during Pregnancy and offspring conduct problems among children.  appears to be a prenatal risk factor for such as  which represents an issue of significant social, clinical, and practice concern, with evidence highlighting increasing rates of child conduct problems internationally.

Harold and Dr. Gaysina, of the , with colleagues in the United States and New Zealand, examined the relationship between maternal and offspring conduct problems among children raised by genetically related mothers and genetically unrelated mothers.

In this study maternal was measured with the average number of cigarettes per day smoked during pregnancy and it was determined that there was a significant association between maternal and offspring conduct problems among children raised by genetically related mothers and genetically unrelated mothers. Results from a meta-analysis affirmed this pattern of findings across pooled study samples.

“Our findings suggest an association between pregnancy smoking and child conduct problems that is unlikely to be fully explained by postnatal environmental factors (i.e., parenting practices) even when the postnatal passive genotype-environment correlation has been removed.” The authors conclude, “The causal explanation for the association between smoking in pregnancy and offspring conduct problems is not known but may include and other prenatal , including smoking itself”.

An earlier study had linked maternal smoking with myelin deficits observed in adults with various ,” said , PhD, of the University of Virginia, who directed the study. “Our findings suggest that abnormal may also contribute to the associated with maternal smoking,” Li said.

Myelin is a fatty brain substance that insulates brain cell connections. The study found that when rats were given nicotine during pregnancy, their offspring showed changes in myelin genes in specific regions of their brain’s limbic system — structures involved with emotion. The effect was strongest in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region important for decision-making.

The researchers also identified sex differences in nicotine’s effects. Myelin-related genes increased in the prefrontal cortex of the male offspring, but decreased in the females. The opposite was observed in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, a brain region involved in the regulation of stress and appetite, among other functions.

“These findings suggest that maternal smoking may affect daughters and sons differently,” Li said. Research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Gaysina D, Fergusson DM, Leve LD, et al. Maternal and Offspring Conduct Problems: Evidence From 3 Independent Genetically Sensitive Research Designs. JAMA Psychiatry, 2013; DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.127

Society for Neuroscience (2010, November 15). affects myelin genes in offspring. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 27

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