Mothers who didn't give up smoking when pregnant, a new study has pointed out, are more likely to have kids who grow up to become repeat criminal offenders.
The findings held true even after other factors statistically associated with criminal behaviour - mental illness and deprivation - were ruled out, the study found.
AdvertisementExperts found an increased risk for women who smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day during pregnancy.
The researchers reviewed the health and criminal records of almost 4,000 American adults aged between 33 and 40 years old, who were part of a long-term health study in Rhode Island designed to track the long-term effects on children of conditions during pregnancy and around birth.
Information was collected about the smoking habits of the mothers, who were enrolled in the study between 1959 and 1966, during pregnancy.
In 1999/2000, when their children were aged at least 33, criminal record checks were carried out on the offspring.
The results showed that those children whose mothers smoked heavily were 30 percent more likely to have been arrested as those whose mothers never smoked, and were more likely to be repeat criminal offenders.
The findings were the same for both men and women.
"While we cannot definitively conclude that maternal smoking during pregnancy (particularly heavy smoking) is a causal risk factor for adult criminal offending, the current findings do support a modest causal relationship," concluded the researchers.
The study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.