Maternal smoking during pregnancy and psychopathology in offspring followed to adulthood

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1999 Jul;38(7):892-9. doi: 10.1097/00004583-199907000-00020.


Objective: To extend findings from several independent reports of an association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, and substance abuse in the offspring.

Method: This is a 10-year longitudinal study of offspring assessed at 3 points in time into adulthood. Fifty offspring of mothers who reported smoking at least 10 cigarettes almost daily during pregnancy and 97 offspring of mothers who reported never smoking during pregnancy were studied. Psychiatric diagnosis in offspring was assessed blind to parental diagnosis.

Results: There was a greater than 4-fold increased risk of prepubertal-onset conduct disorder in boys and a greater than 5-fold increased risk of adolescent-onset drug dependence in girls whose mothers smoked 10 or more cigarettes almost daily during pregnancy. These findings could not be explained by maternal substance abuse during pregnancy, parental psychiatric diagnosis, family risk factors, prenatal and early developmental history of offspring, postnatal maternal smoking, or smoking in the offspring.

Conclusions: Maternal smoking during pregnancy may have a long-term effect on specific psychopathology in offspring. The underlying pathophysiology of nicotine on the fetus requires study. The findings suggest the importance of programs aimed at smoking prevention and cessation in women during pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Conduct Disorder / diagnosis
  • Conduct Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Distribution
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*


  • Nicotine