Contribution of maternal smoking during pregnancy and lead exposure to early child behavior problems

Neurotoxicol Teratol. Jan-Feb 2001;23(1):13-21. doi: 10.1016/s0892-0362(00)00116-1.


Maternal smoking during pregnancy elevates risk for later child behavior problems. Because prior studies considered only Western settings, where smoking co-occurs with social disadvantage, we examined this association in Yugoslavia, a different cultural setting. Mothers enrolled in pregnancy as the low-exposure group in a prospective study of lead exposure were interviewed about health, including smoking history. A total of 199 children were assessed on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) at ages 4, 4 1/2, and 5 years. Average cumulative blood lead (BPb) was determined from serial samples taken biannually since delivery. Longitudinal analyses were derived from 191 children with available data on behavior and covariates. Smoking was unrelated to social adversity. Controlling for age, gender, birthweight, ethnicity, maternal education, and Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME) Acceptance, smoking was associated with worse scores on almost all subscales; BPb concentration was related to small increases in the Delinquency subscale. Daughters of smokers received significantly higher scores on Somatic Complaints compared to daughters of nonsmokers, consistent with other work relating biological factors and internalizing problems in young girls. Because the present smoking/child behavior associations persist after control for individual and social factors also related to behavior problems, possible biological mediators are considered.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Weight
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lead* / blood
  • Maternal Age
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Smoking*
  • Yugoslavia


  • Lead