Women who smoke during pregnancy may increase the risk of children developing neuropsychiatric disorders associated with behavioural problems, warn researchers.
“Our study not only shows an important role for maternal prenatal smoking in risk for both simple and complex chronic tic disorders in children, but it also suggests that smoking may be exerting some of its effects through subtle changes in brain development that might occur as a result of foetal exposure to nicotine,” said Dorothy Grice, Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, US.
Further, heavy smoking when pregnant has been associated with a two to three-fold increased risk of several behavioural manifestations in children, including neuropsychiatric difficulties such as chronic tic disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Maternal smoking can also lead to lower birth weight and premature delivery in children, which may, in turn, become a risk factor for subsequent behavioural problems in the child.
Furthermore, parental smoking is associated with lower socio-economic status and higher rates of alcohol and substance use, and these factors are also linked to behavioural changes in children.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.