Children of mothers who smoke are more likely to exhibit behavioral problems than children of non-smoking mothers. A study of 2,256 children aged four to 11 showed that mothers who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day or more had children who were more aggressive and inattentive.
Can a mother who lights up lead to a child who acts up? A new study shows that the more cigarettes a mother smokes, the more behavioral problems her kids are likely to have.
Researchers surveyed mothers of 2,256 children, ages 4 to 11, about their own smoking habits and their children’s behavior. Children whose mothers puffed a pack or more per day after giving birth were reported to have twice the rate of extreme behavior problems of children whose moms didn’t smoke (Pediatrics, September 1992).
“Depression, aggression, alternativeness, fearfulness, discipline problems and destructive behavior were reported much more frequently in the smokers’ children,” says Michael Weitzman, M.D., associate chairman of pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York. “Many smokers keep smoking despite knowing the harm they do to themselves. But if they knew what they were doing to their kids, they might be more willing to quit.”
The children’s behavior was based on parent reports, so it could be that smokers are just more intolerant of their kids’ actions. Or maybe smokers are under more stress than nonsmokers, and this stress is reflected in difficult relations with their children. Only more research can tell us if smoking does indeed cause bad behavior in kids. “But it may also be that maternal smoking during and after pregnancy alters the brain structure of the child,” says Dr. Weitzman. “Perhaps it also affects the child’s central nervous system, which can lead to the bad behavior.
“If you know someone who smokes and has children, provides them with support–don’t ‘guilt’ them into quitting,” says Dr. Weitzman. “Let them know it takes several efforts for most people to finally quit.” You can also ask you doctor for a referral to smoking cessation programs in your area.
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