Smoking Mothers Give Birth to Anti-Social Children (Read on!)

Smoking Mothers and Anti-Social ChildrenOn an upcoming episode of Family Anatomy Dr. Brian and I will be discussing the research on stress and pregnancy. One of the points we'll be making is that alarming and sensational headlines can create unnecessary worry in expectant mothers. A study recently in the journal Development and Psychopathology led to the headline "Smoking During Pregnancy Fosters Aggression In Children". Now, while it is certainly true that smoking is associated with increased risks for both mom and her developing fetus and that discouraging smoking in pregnant women is important, the link between smoking and anti-social behaviour does appear to be stretching credulity. Past research has shown that while smoking in general is on the decline, people in lower socio-economic conditions continue to have higher smoking rates. In addition, our justice system tends to focus on offenses that target those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Therefore, it should come as a surprise when in the body of this article the researchers state, "the research team found the risk of giving birth to aggressive children increases among smoking mothers whose familial income is lower than $40,000 per year".  Another intuitive truth found in the body of the article states that a"risk factor for aggressive behaviour in offspring was smoking mothers with a history of antisocial behaviour: run-ins with the law, high school drop-outs and illegal drug use". Again, when you read on in the article you find that the 40% greater chance of having anti-social behaviour in children of mothers who smoke fell to an 8% higher chance when kids from families making less than $40,000 a year were considered. The moral of this story? Headlines are a necessary and important way for writers to attract viewers. However, beware of reading headlines, moving on to other stories and believing that you've just gain an important new fact or truth. The articles below the headlines are often much more nuanced and give you a much improved understand of the true meaning of the research being presented.

You can read more about these studies here (PDF) and  here.

Subscribe to The Family Anatomy Podcast by clicking here, or get your free subscription directly through iTunes.

Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for information only. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.