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Maternal smoking during pregnancy and offspring antisocial behaviour: findings from a longitudinal investigation of discordant siblings
  1. Angela D Paradis1,
  2. Edmond D Shenassa1,2,3,
  3. George D Papandonatos4,
  4. Michelle L Rogers5,
  5. Stephen L Buka1
  1. 1 Department of Epidemiology, Brown University School of Public Health, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
  2. 2 Maternal and Child Health Program, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA
  3. 3 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA
  4. 4 Department of Biostatistics, Brown University School of Public Health, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
  5. 5 Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Angela Paradis, Department of Epidemiology, Brown University School of Public Health, 121 South Main Street, Providence, RI 02912, USA; angela_paradis{at}


Background Although many observational studies have found a strong association between maternal smoking during pregnancy (MSP) and offspring antisocial behaviour, the likelihood that this relationship is causal remains unclear. To comment on the potential causality of this association, the current investigation used a between–within decomposition approach to examine the association between MSP and multiple indices of adolescent and adult antisocial behaviour.

Methods Study participants were offspring of women enrolled in the Providence and Boston sites of the Collaborative Perinatal Project. Information on MSP was collected prospectively. Antisocial behaviour was assessed via self-report and through official records searches. A subset of the adult offspring (average age: 39.6 years) were enrolled in a follow-up study oversampling families with multiple siblings. Participants in this follow-up study self-reported on juvenile and adult antisocial behaviours during a structured interview (n=1684). Official records of juvenile (n=3447) and adult (n=3433) criminal behaviour were obtained for participants in the Providence cohort. Statistical models allowed between-family effects of MSP exposure to differ from within-family effects. In the absence of heterogeneity in between-family versus within-family estimates, a combined estimate was calculated.

Results MSP was associated with a range of antisocial behaviours, measured by self-report and official records. For example, MSP was associated with increased odds of elevated levels of antisocial behaviours during adolescence and adulthood, as well as violent and non-violent outcomes during both developmental periods.

Conclusions Findings are consistent with a small-to-moderate causal effect of MSP on adolescent and adult antisocial behaviour.


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  • Contributors ADP, SLB and EDS developed the study concept. All authors contributed to the design and interpretation of findings. MLR and GDP performed the data analysis. ADP drafted the manuscript. EDS, GDP, MLR and SLB provided critical revisions. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

  • Funding This work was supported by the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG023397-02); a Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center grant from the National Institutes of Health (P50 CA084719); the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and a National Science Foundation grant to the National Consortium on Violence Research (YR4-CCRP1).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The Institutional Review Boards of Brown and Harvard Universities approved the follow-up studies.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.