Intergenerational relationships between the smoking patterns of a population-representative sample of US mothers and the smoking trajectories of their children

Am J Public Health. 2012 Apr;102(4):723-31. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300214. Epub 2011 Nov 28.


Objectives: We assessed intergenerational transmission of smoking in mother-child dyads.

Methods: We identified classes of youth smoking trajectories using mixture latent trajectory analyses with data from the Children and Young Adults of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (n = 6349). We regressed class membership on prenatal and postnatal exposure to maternal smoking, including social and behavioral variables, to control for selection.

Results: Youth smoking trajectories entailed early-onset persistent smoking, early-onset experimental discontinued smoking, late-onset persistent smoking, and nonsmoking. The likelihood of early onset versus late onset and early onset versus nonsmoking were significantly higher among youths exposed prenatally and postnatally versus either postnatally alone or unexposed. Controlling for selection, the increased likelihood of early onset versus nonsmoking remained significant for each exposure group versus unexposed, as did early onset versus late onset and late onset versus nonsmoking for youths exposed prenatally and postnatally versus unexposed. Experimental smoking was notable among youths whose mothers smoked but quit before the child's birth.

Conclusions: Both physiological and social role-modeling mechanisms of intergenerational transmission are evident. Prioritization of tobacco control for pregnant women, mothers, and youths remains a critical, interrelated objective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult