Genetics risk, prenatal smoking may predict behavioral problems

April 23, 2014

Researchers have found evidence of an interaction between prenatal smoking and genetic risk factors that increase aggressive behavior in children, especially in girls.

"The interesting issue is that not all children exposed to prenatal smoking will have . Some might, but others will not," said Brian Boutwell, Assistant Professor at Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal Justice and senior author on the study. "One possible explanation for this is that the effect of prenatal smoke exposure depends on the presence of 'triggering influence;' in this case, we investigated whether might act as just such a trigger."

The study, "Prenatal Smoking and Genetic Risk: Examining the Childhood Origins of Externalizing Behavioral Problems," was led by Melissa Petkovsek, a doctoral student at Sam Houston State, and was based on a nationally representative sample of 1,600 twins, including identical and fraternal pairs, collected during early childhood. The study found that children exposed to prenatal smoking, and who also had an increased genetic propensity for antisocial behavior, exhibited the most pronounced conduct problems during childhood. Interestingly, this gene-environment interaction was most pronounced in females.

The study demonstrates that prenatal environmental experiences may influence future behavioral problems in children, especially in combination with the presence of factors. Ultimately, the study presented four key findings:

  • Genetic risk factors increase behavioral problems in children
  • Prenatal maternal smoking, when taken in isolation, did not appear to directly result in behavioral problems
  • The influence of genetic on behavior problems were most pronounced for children exposed to prenatal smoking
  • The interaction between genetic factors and was isolated to females

The current research underscores the link between and antisocial behaviors. Boutwell said that while most research focuses on environmental factors, such as the family and neighborhoods, it is important to explore alternative environments, such as prenatal experiences, to gain a better understanding of the origins of problem behaviors.

"Social scientists have spent decades looking at what happens with parents and the family to try and determine why some children develop behavioral problems and others don't," said Boutwell. "While we are not saying that family environments are completely unimportant, environmental experiences encompass far more than just parenting. It is possible, in fact, than other environmental experiences may matter just as much, and perhaps more in some cases, for development than simply what happens inside the home between parents and children."

Explore further: Maternal smoking during pregnancy associated with offspring conduct problems, study suggests

More information: The study was published in Social Science and Medicine and is available at www.sciencedirect.com/science/ … pii/S027795361400197.

Related Stories

Maternal smoking during pregnancy associated with offspring conduct problems, study suggests

July 24, 2013
Smoking during pregnancy appears to be a prenatal risk factor associated with conduct problems in children, according to a study published by JAMA Psychiatry, a JAMA Network publication.

Are there biosocial origins for antisocial behavior?

February 21, 2012
An assistant professor at Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal Justice is working to unlock the mysteries surrounding the role that genetics and environmental influences play on criminal and antisocial behavior.

Prenatal risk factors may put children at risk of developing kidney disease

April 17, 2014
Certain prenatal risk factors are associated with the development of chronic kidney disease in children, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN). Future ...

Genes play key role in parenting

March 20, 2014
Scientists have presented the most conclusive evidence yet that genes play a significant role in parenting.

Children exposed to methamphetamine before birth have increased cognitive problems

March 18, 2014
In the only long-term, National Institutes of Health-funded study of prenatal methamphetamine exposure and child outcome, researchers found youngsters exposed to the potent illegal drug before birth had increased cognitive ...

Study correlates ADHD and secondhand smoke

December 6, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Duke Medicine has established a new research program to investigate the relationship between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke during pregnancy and childhood and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ...

Recommended for you

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Study shows cigarette makers shifted stance on nicotine patches, gum

August 17, 2017
The use of nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers or nasal sprays—together called "nicotine replacement therapy," or NRT—came into play in 1984 as prescription medicine, which when combined with counseling, helped ...

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

Energy dense foods may increase cancer risk regardless of obesity status

August 17, 2017
Diet is believed to play a role in cancer risk. Current research shows that an estimated 30% of cancers could be prevented through nutritional modifications. While there is a proven link between obesity and certain types ...

Technology is changing Generation smartphone, and not always for the better

August 16, 2017
It's easy to imagine some graybeard long ago weighing in on how this new generation, with all its fancy wheels, missed out on the benefits of dragging stuff from place to place.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.