Australian research has found that children of mothers who smoke in their late pregnancies were highly likely to end up as smokers in their teens.
Dr Fran O'Callaghan of Griffith University's Psychological Health Research Center, and colleagues from the Mater Hospital and the University of Queens land had conducted their research on around 4500 children of mothers in a long-term study. The study, which is published in the latest edition of the journal Addiction, was funded by a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Dr O'Callaghan said that their study showed that smoking during late pregnancy and continued smoking as the children grew up influenced smoking in teenagers. It was explained that even though smoking was actually a habit that had to learned, the research has suggested that smoking by the mother during pregnancy has a direct biological effect on the fetal brain.
It was also explained that the probability of teenagers who have taken to smoke could be assessed from as early as five years and accurately predicted by studying the range of problems. Dr O'Callaghan said, "We looked at various risk factors at the age of five (including) family, social and child risk factors. Some of the ones that were significant were maternal smoking and alcohol use, being unmarried, having a partner who had ever been arrested, having four or more children in the household and child aggression at five years."
Dr O'Callaghan explained that the findings effectively identify the warning signs that a child was likely to take up smoking as a teenager. She said, "For instance a GP dealing with a mother who experiences these risk factors, will be alerted to future vulnerability." Explaining that the findings also reinforce the dangers of smoking during pregnancy, she said, "They should be an incentive for women who are currently smoking to stop smoking and for young girls not to take it up because there are long term consequences. I suppose a lot of people think that smoking during pregnancy just leads to lower birth weight babies, but there are lots of other effects as well."