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, 23 (10), 913-29

Prenatal Nicotine Exposure and Child Behavioural Problems


Prenatal Nicotine Exposure and Child Behavioural Problems

Carla M T Tiesler et al. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry.


In utero exposure to tobacco smoke has been related to numerous adverse health effects in new-borns, infants, children, adolescents and adults. The aim of this review was to summarise findings on prenatal nicotine exposure and its relationship with behavioural problems in the offspring. The majority of studies, and especially several recent epidemiological studies, observed a higher likelihood for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or ADHD symptoms in exposed subjects. However, both human and animal studies have failed to provide clear evidence on causality. Existing literature on studies investigating the association between prenatal nicotine exposure and conduct or externalising problems in the offspring suggests a causal effect. The establishment of a final conclusion concerning the relationship between prenatal nicotine exposure and internalising problems in the offspring is complicated by insufficient data and mixed results in epidemiological studies. Prenatal nicotine exposure has been associated with altered brain structure and function in human offspring, and a proposed biological mechanism is related to nicotine's adverse influence on neurotransmitter systems during brain development. In conclusion, establishing a statement on the causality of the relationship between prenatal nicotine exposure and behavioural problems in children remains a challenging task. Nevertheless, considering the results of an increasing number of studies which link prenatal exposure to nicotine to externalising problems applying different methodologies to account for confounding and in view of other adverse health effects known to be caused by this exposure, parents should consider smoking cessation.

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