Child Psychiatry and Human Development

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 255–269 | Cite as

Direct and Passive Prenatal Nicotine Exposure and the Development of Externalizing Psychopathology

  • Lisa M. Gatzke-Kopp
  • Theodore P. Beauchaine
Original Paper


The association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and childhood antisocial outcomes has been demonstrated repeatedly across a variety of outcomes. Yet debate continues as to whether this association reflects a direct programming effect of nicotine on fetal brain development, or a phenotypic indicator of heritable liability passed from mother to child. In the current study, we examine relations between maternal smoking and child behavior among 133 women and their 7–15-year-olds, who were recruited for clinical levels of psychopathology. In order to disentangle correlates of maternal smoking, women who smoked during pregnancy were compared with (a) those who did not smoke, and (b) those who did not smoke but experienced significant second-hand exposure. Second-hand exposure was associated with increased externalizing psychopathology in participant mothers’ offspring. Moreover, regression analyses indicated that smoke exposure during pregnancy predicted conduct disorder symptoms, over and above the effects of income, parental antisocial tendencies, prematurity, birth weight, and poor parenting practices. This is the first study to extend the findings of externalizing vulnerability to second hand smoke exposure.


Maternal smoking Conduct disorder Aggression Second hand smoke ADHD 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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