Is the Intergenerational Transmission of Smoking from Mother to Child Mediated by Children's Behavior Problems?

Published In: Nicotine & Tobacco Research, v. 14, no. 9, Sep. 2012, p. 1012-1018

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2012

by Jeremy N. V. Miles, Margaret Weden

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INTRODUCTION: A previous paper used latent class analysis to assign individuals to 1 of 4 adolescent/young adult smoking trajectory classes and then established an association between maternal smoking before, during, and after pregnancy and these classes. In this paper, we examine one possible pathway for this relationship: that maternal smoking during pregnancy may set off a behavioral trajectory which increases the likelihood of problem behaviors generally, of which smoking is one manifestation. METHODS: We used the Behavior Problems Index measure from age 8 through age 12 as a potential mediator. We used a path analysis modeling approach within a multinomial logistic regression (using Mplus) to estimate direct and indirect effects (via behavioral problems) between maternal smoking pattern and child trajectory class. RESULTS: We found small but statistically significant indirect effects via behavioral problems from maternal smoking to child smoking trajectory for membership in all 3 smoking classes, relative to the nonsmoking trajectory, indicating partial mediation. Mediated effects were associated with maternal smoking after pregnancy, no statistically significant mediated effects were found for smoking before or during pregnancy. CONCLUSIONS: The results provided no evidence that the effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy on child smoking trajectory are mediated by problem behavior. Effects from smoking after birth to child smoking trajectory appear to be partially mediated by problem behavior, supporting a behavioral rather than physiological effect of smoking during pregnancy but not ruling out more complex physiological pathways.

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