Is Smoking During Pregnancy a Risk Factor for Psychopathology in Young Children? A Methodological Caveat and Report on Preschoolers

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Objective While studies of the effects of prenatal smoking on child psychopathology have found positive relationships, most studies (1) failed to control for a range of correlates of maternal smoking that could affect children’s behavior; (2) have been conducted with school-age rather than younger children, so it is not clear when such problems emerge; and (3) have not examined the effects on internalizing problems. Method This study examined the effects of prenatal smoke exposure on behaviors associated with externalizing and internalizing behavior problems and negative temperament in a diverse community sample of 679 4-year-olds. Results After controlling for correlates that include socioeconomic status, life stress, family conflict, maternal depression, maternal scaffolding skills, mother–child attachment, child negative affect and effortful control, smoking during pregnancy was no longer associated with child behavior or emotional problems. Conclusions Future studies need to control for a wide range of covariates of maternal smoking.

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