Introduction: Evidence from epidemiological studies has consistently shown an association between maternal smoking during pregnancy (MSDP) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The objective of this study is to test the hypothesis that children with ADHD exposed to MSDP show a distinctive clinical and neurocognitive profile when compared with unexposed children.
Methods: Four hundred and thirty-six children diagnosed with ADHD were stratified by exposure to MSDP and compared with regard to severity of illness, comorbidity, IQ, and executive function as assessed by a battery of neuropsychological tests. All comparisons were adjusted for socioeconomic status, ethnicity, mother's age at child's birth, and maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Results: Exposed children had more severe behavioral problems with greater externalizing symptoms and more conduct and oppositional defiant disorder items, lower verbal IQ, and a sluggish cognitive profile on the Continuous Performance Test (CPT). Linear regression analyses revealed a dose-response relationship between the average number of cigarettes smoked per day during pregnancy and verbal IQ, CPT omission errors T score and several other clinical variables.
Conclusions: These results suggest that MSDP is associated with a more severe form of ADHD, characterized by more severe clinical manifestations and poorer neuropsychological performance. This phenotypic signature associated with MSDP may help to identify a more homogenous subgroup of children with ADHD.