Smoking while pregnant linked to child behaviour problems
Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy have a higher risk of behavioural problems, a study has found.
It has also found that maternal smoking during pregnancy is strongly associated with low birth weight and perinatal and neonatal complications as well as an alteration in the pattern of brain development in the foetus.
The research was conducted by Dr Cathal McCrory of Trinity College Dublin and Prof Richard Layte of the Economic and Social Research Institute, and was based on data from Growing Up in Ireland, the National Longitudinal Study of Children.
Their research found that children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy were 1.4 times more likely to be defined as having a behavioural problem by their teacher than children of mothers who did not smoke. It also found that children whose mothers smoked occasionally during pregnancy were 32 per cent more likely than children of non-smoking mothers to display behavioural problems.
Children whose mothers were heavy smokers (over 11 cigarettes a day during pregnancy) were 78 per cent more likely to be defined as having a behavioural problem than the children of non-smoking mothers.
The study also found that the proportion of mothers who smoke during pregnancy has fallen from 28 per cent in the late 1990s to 17.6 per cent currently. Just over a quarter of women (28 per cent) who were smoking in early pregnancy stop at some point before birth.
It was also found that the level of smoking in pregnancy in Ireland is higher than in northern Europe but lower than Britain. Women from eastern and northern Europe and those with higher levels of education and higher household income, were more likely to quit smoking during pregnancy, it found.
Dr McCrory, said that “it has been known for some time that smoking during pregnancy is associated with premature birth and low birth weight, but the results of this study show that the effects of smoking during pregnancy are long-lasting and can affect aspects of the child’s emotional and behavioural development in later life”. He said “these findings reinforce the need for programmes aimed at promoting successful cessation of smoking during what is a critical period for the developing infant”.
The Government-funded study followed the progress of almost 20,000 children and their families.