Skip to main content

Maternal prenatal smoking, parental antisocial behavior, and early childhood physical aggression

  • Stephan C. J. Huijbregts (a1), Jean R. Séguin (a2), Mark Zoccolillo (a3), Michel Boivin (a4) and Richard E. Tremblay (a2)...

This study investigated joint effects of maternal prenatal smoking and parental history of antisocial behavior on physical aggression between ages 17 and 42 months in a population sample of children born in Québec (N = 1,745). An analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed significant main effects of maternal prenatal smoking and a significant interaction between maternal prenatal smoking and mother's history of antisocial behavior in the prediction of children's probability to display high and rising physical aggression. The interaction indicated that the effects of heavy smoking during pregnancy (≥10 cigarettes/day) were greater when the mother also had a serious history of antisocial behavior. The effects remained significant after the introduction of control variables (e.g., hostile-reactive parenting, family functioning, parental separation/divorce, family income, and maternal education). Another significant interaction not accounted for by control variables was observed for maternal prenatal smoking and family income, indicating more serious effects of maternal prenatal smoking under relatively low-income, conditions. Both interactions indicate critical adversities that, in combination with maternal prenatal smoking, have supra-additive effects on (the development of) physical aggression during early childhood. These findings may have implications for the selection of intervention targets and strategies.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Stephan Huijbregts, Department of Clinical Child and Adolescent Studies, Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Faculty of Social Sciences, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands; E-mail:
Hide All

This work was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR ZH4-35619 and MOP-44072), Fonds Québécois de Recherche sur la Société et la Culture (FQRSC 2002-RS-79238), Fonds de Recherche en Santé du Québec Career Scientist Award to J.R.S., Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC 412-2000-1003), and the Québec Ministry of Health. We are grateful to l'Institut de la Statistique du Québec and its partners for data collection and preparation and to Charles Édouard Giguère and Qian Xu for data management.

Hide All
Achenbach T. M., Edelbrock C. S., & Howell C. T. (1987). Empirically based assessment of the behavioral/emotional problems of 2- and 3-year-old children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 15, 629650.
Beck L. F., Morrow B., Lipscomb L. E., Johnson C. H., Gaffield M. E., Rogers M., et al. (2002). Prevalence of selected maternal behaviors and experiences: Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) 1999. CDC Surveillance Summaries, 51, 127.
Boivin M., Pérusse D., Dionne G., Saysset V., Zoccolillo M., Tarabulsy G., et al. (2005). The genetic–environmental etiology of parents' perceptions and self-assessed behaviors toward their 5-month-old infants in a large twin and singleton sample. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46, 612630.
Breslau N., Paneth N., Lucia V. C., & Paneth-Pollak R. (2005). Maternal smoking during pregnancy and offspring IQ. International Journal of Epidemiology, 34, 10471053.
Brennan P., Grekin E., & Mednick S. (1999). Maternal smoking during pregnancy and adult male criminal outcomes. Archives of General Psychiatry, 56, 215219.
Brennan P. A., Raine A., Schulsinger F., Kirkegaard-Sorensen L., Knop J., Hutchings B., et al. (1997). Psychophysiological protective factors for male subjects at high risk for criminal behavior. American Journal of Psychiatry, 154, 853855.
Broidy L. M., Nagin D. S., Tremblay R. E., Bates J. E., Brame B., Dodge K. A., et al. (2003). Developmental trajectories of childhood disruptive behaviors an adolescent delinquency: A six-site, cross-national study. Developmental Psychology, 39, 222245.
Button T. M. M., Thapar A., & McGuffin P. (2005). Relationship between antisocial behaviour, attention–deficit hyperactivity disorder and maternal prenatal smoking. British Journal of Psychiatry, 187, 155160.
Caldwell B. M., & Bradley R. H. (1994). Home observation for measurement of the environment. Little Rock, AR: University of Arkansas.
Campbell S. B., Spieker S., Burchinal M., Poe M. D., & The NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2006). Trajectories of aggression from toddlerhood to age 9 predict academic and social functioning through age 12. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 791800.
Caspi A., Moffitt T. E., Newman D. L., & Silva P. A. (1996). Behavioral observations at age 3 years predict adult psychiatric disorders—Longitudinal evidence from a birth cohort. Archives of General Psychiatry, 53, 10331039.
Cicchetti D., & Cannon T. (1999). Neurodevelopmental processes in the ontogenesis and epigenesis of psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 11, 375394.
Côté S. M. (2007). Sex differences in physical and indirect aggression: A developmental perspective. European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research, 13, 183200.
Côté S., Vaillancourt T., LeBlanc J. C., Nagin D. S., & Tremblay R. E. (2006). The development of physical aggression from toddlerhood to pre-adolescence: A nation-wide longitudinal study of Canadian children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34, 6882.
Davidge K. M., Atkinson L., Douglas L., Lee V., Shapiro S., Kennedy J. L., et al. (2004). Association of the serotonin transporter and 5HT1Dbeta receptor genes with extreme, persistent and pervasive aggressive behaviour in children. Psychiatric Genetics, 14, 143146.
Dionne G., Tremblay R., Boivin M., Laplante D., & Pérusse D. (2003). Physical aggression and expressive vocabulary in 19-month-old twins. Developmental Psychology, 39, 261273.
Eley T. C., Lichtenstein P., & Stevenson J. (1999). Sex differences in the etiology of aggressive and nonaggressive antisocial behavior: Results of two twin studies. Child Development, 70, 155168.
Fergusson D. M., Woodward L. J., & Horwood L. J. (1998). Maternal smoking during pregnancy and psychiatric adjustment in late adolescence. Archives of General Psychiatry, 55, 721727.
Ge X., Conger R. D., Cadoret R. J., Neiderhiser J. M., Yates W., Troughton E., et al. (1996). The developmental interface between nature and nurture: A mutual influence model of child antisocial behavior and parenting. Developmental Psychology, 32, 574589.
Gibson C. L., & Tibbetts S. G. (2000). A biosocial interaction in predicting early onset of offending. Psychological Reports, 86, 509518.
Höök B., Cederblad M., & Berg R. (2006). Prenatal and postnatal maternal smoking as risk factors for preschool children's mental health. Acta Paediatrica, 95, 671677.
Horne R. S. C., Franco P., Adamson T. M., Groswasser J., & Kahn A. (2004). Influences of maternal cigarette smoking on infant arousability. Early Human Development, 79, 4958.
Huijbregts S. C. J., Séguin J. R., Zelazo P. D., Parent S., Japel C., & Tremblay R. E. (2006). Interrelations between maternal smoking during pregnancy, birth weight and sociodemographic factors in the prediction of early cognitive abilities. Infant and Child Development, 15, 593606.
Huijbregts S. C. J., Séguin J. R., Zoccolillo M., Boivin M., & Tremblay R. E. (2007). Associations of maternal prenatal smoking with early childhood physical aggression, hyperactivity-impulsivity, and their co-occurrence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 35, 203215.
Human Resources Development Canada and Statistics Canada. (1996). Growing up in Canada: National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.
Jacobson S. W., Chiodo L. M., Sokol R. J., & Jacobson J. L. (2002). Validity of maternal report of prenatal alcohol, cocaine, and smoking in relation to neurobehavioral outcome. Pediatrics, 109, 815825.
Jetté M., & Des Groseilliers L. (2000). Survey description and methodology. In Longitudinal study of child development in Québec (ELDEQ 1998–2002) (Vol. 1, No. 1). Québec: Institut de la Statistique du Québec.
Jones B. L., Nagin D. S., & Roeder K. (2001). A SAS procedure based on mixture models for estimating developmental trajectories. Sociological Methods & Research, 29, 374393.
Kahn R. S., Khoury J., Nichols W. C., & Lanphear B. P. (2003). Role of dopamine transporter genotype and maternal prenatal smoking in childhood hyperactive-impulsive, inattentive, and oppositional behaviors. Journal of Pediatrics, 143, 104110.
Kramer M. S., Platt R. W., Wen S. W., Joseph K. S., Allen A., Abrahamowicz M., et al. Fetal/Infant Health Study Group of the Canadian Perinatal Surveillance System. (2001). A new and improved population-based Canadian reference for birth weight for gestational age. Pediatrics, 108, e35.
Lacourse É., Nagin D. S., Vitaro F., Côté S., Arseneault L., & Tremblay R. E. (2006). Prediction of early-onset deviant peer group affiliation: A 12-year longitudinal study. Archives of General Psychiatry, 63, 562568.
Law K. L., Stroud L. R., LaGasse L. L., Niaura R., Liu J., & Lester B. M. (2003). Smoking during pregnancy and newborn neurobehaviour. Pediatrics, 111, 13181323.
Maughan B., Taylor A., Caspi A., & Moffitt T. E. (2004). Prenatal smoking and early childhood conduct problems: Testing genetic and environmental explanations of the association. Archives of General Psychiatry, 61, 836843.
Maughan B., Taylor C., Taylor A., Butler N., & Bynner J. (2001). Pregnancy smoking and childhood conduct problems: A causal association? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42, 10211028.
Moffitt T. E., Caspi A., & Rutter M. (2005). Strategy for investigating interactions between measured genes and measured environments. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 473481.
Monuteaux M. C., Blacker D., Biederman J., Fitzmaurice G., & Buka S. L. (2006). Maternal smoking during pregnancy and offspring overt and covert conduct problems: A longitudinal study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 883890.
Mortensen E. L., Michaelsen K. E., Sanders S. A. & Reinisch J. M. (2005). A dose–response relationship between maternal smoking during late pregnancy and adult intelligence in male offspring. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 19, 411.
Nagin D. S. (1999). Analyzing developmental trajectories: A semi-parametric, group-based approach. Psychological Methods, 4, 139177.
Nagin D. S. (2005). Group-based modeling of development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Nagin D. S., & Tremblay R. E. (1999). Trajectories of boys' physical aggression, opposition, and hyperactivity on the path to physically violent and nonviolent juvenile delinquency. Child Development, 70, 11811196.
Nagin D. S., & Tremblay R. E. (2001). Analyzing developmental trajectories of distinct but related behaviors: A group-based method. Psychological Methods, 6, 1834.
NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2004). Trajectories of physical aggression from toddlerhood to middle childhood: Predictors, correlates, and outcomes. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 69, 129.
O'Connor T. G., Deater-Deckard K., Fulker D., Rutter M., & Plomin R. (1998). Genotype–environment correlations in late childhood and early adolescence: Antisocial behavioral problems and coercive parenting. Developmental Psychology, 34, 970981.
Offord D. R., Boyle M. H., & Racine Y. (1989). Ontario child health study: Correlates of disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 28, 856860.
Olds D. L., Henderson C. R., Kitzman H. J., Eckenrode J. J., Cole R. E., & Tatelbaum R. C. (1999). Prenatal and infancy home visitation by nurses: Recent findings. Future of Children, 9, 4465.
Orlebeke J. F., Knol D. L., & Verhulst F. C. (1997). Increase in child behavior problems resulting from maternal smoking during pregnancy. Archives of Environmental Health, 52, 317321.
Pickett K. E., Rathouz P. J., Kasza K., Wakschlag L. S., & Wright R. (2005). Self-reported smoking, cotinine levels, and patterns of smoking in pregnancy. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 19, 368376.
Radloff L. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385401.
Raine A. (2002). Annotation: The role of prefrontal deficits, low autonomic arousal, and early health factors in the development of antisocial and aggressive behavior in children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43, 417434.
Räsänen P., Hakko H., Isohanni M., Hodgins S., Järvelin M. J., & Tiihonen J. (1999). Maternal smoking during pregnancy and risk of criminal behavior among adult male offspring in the Northern Finland 1966 birth cohort. American Journal of Psychiatry, 156, 857862.
Robins L. N., Helzer J. E., Croughan J., & Ratcliff K. S. (1981). National Institute of Mental Health Diagnostic Interview Schedule. Its history, characteristics, and validity. Archives of General Psychiatry, 38, 381389.
Rutter M., Silberg J., O'Connor T., & Simonoff E. (1999). Genetics and child psychiatry: II. Empirical research findings. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 40, 1955.
SAS Institute Inc. (2001). The SAS System for Windows, v.8.2. Cary, NC: Author.
Séguin J. R., Nagin D., Assaad J.-M., & Tremblay R. E. (2004). Cognitive–neuropsychological function in chronic physical aggression and hyperactivity. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 113, 603613.
Shaw D. S., Lacourse E., & Nagin D. S. (2005). Developmental trajectories of conduct problems and hyperactivity from ages 2 to 10. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46, 931942.
Silberg J. L., Parr T., Neale M. C., Rutter M., Angold A., & Eaves L. J. (2003). Maternal smoking during pregnancy and risk to boys' conduct disturbance: An examination of the causal hypothesis. Biological Psychiatry, 53, 130135.
Slotkin T. A., Seidler F. J., Qiao D., Aldridge J. E., Tate C. A., Cousins M. M., et al. (2005). Effects of prenatal nicotine exposure on primate brain development and attempted amelioration with supplemental choline or vitamin C: Neurotransmitter receptors, cell signaling and cell development biomarkers in fetal brain regions of rhesus monkeys. Neuropsychopharmacology, 30, 129144.
SPSS Inc. (2003). SPSS Advanced Models™ 12.0. Chicago: Author.
Statistics Canada. (1995). Overview of survey instruments for 1994–95 data collection, cycle 1. Ottawa: Author.
Tabachnick B. G., & Fidell L. S. (2001). Using multivariate statistics (4 ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Taylor J., Iacono W. G., & McGue M. (2000). Evidence for a genetic etiology of early-onset delinquency. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109, 634643.
Thapar A., Langley K., Fowler T., Rice F., Turic D., Whittinger N., et al. (2005). Catechol-O-methyltransferase gene variant and birth weight predict early-onset antisocial behavior in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 12751278.
Tremblay R.E. (2000). The development of aggressive behavior during childhood: What have we learned in the past century? International Journal of Behavioral Development, 24, 129141..
Tremblay R. E., Desmarais-Gervais L., Gagnon C., & Charlebois P. (1987). The Preschool Behaviour Questionnaire: Stability of its factor structure between cultures, sexes, ages and socioeconomic classes. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 10, 467484.
Tremblay R. E., & Nagin D. S. (2005). The developmental origins of physical aggression in humans. In Tremblay R. E., Hartup W. W., & Archer J. (Eds.), Developmental origins of aggression. New York: Guilford Press.
Tremblay R., Nagin D., Séguin J., Zoccolillo M., Zelazo P. D., Boivin M., et al. (2004). Physical aggression during early childhood: Trajectories and predictors. Pediatrics, 114, e43e50.
Tremblay R. E., Pihl R. O., Vitaro F., & Dobkin P. L. (1994). Predicting early onset of male antisocial behavior from preschool behavior. Archives of General Psychiatry, 51, 732739.
Van Goozen S. H. M. & Fairchild G. (2006). Neuroendocrine and neurotransmitter correlates in children with antisocial behavior. Hormones and Behavior, 50, 647654.
Vermunt J. K., & Magidson J. (2005). Technical guide for latent GOLD 4.0: Basic and advanced. Belmont, MA: Statistical Innovations Inc.
Volavka J., Bilder R., & Nolan K. (2004). Catecholamines and aggression: The role of COMT and MAO polymorphisms. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1036, 393398.
Wakschlag L. S., & Hans S. L. (2002). Maternal smoking during pregnancy and conduct problems in high-risk youth: A developmental framework. Development and Psychopathology, 14, 351369.
Wakschlag L. S., Leventhal B. L., Pine D. S., Pickett K. E., & Carter A. S. (2006). Elucidating early mechanisms of developmental psychopathology: The case of prenatal smoking and disruptive behavior. Child Development, 77, 893906.
Wakschlag L. S., Pickett K. E., Kasza K. E., & Loeber R. (2006). Is prenatal smoking associated with a developmental pattern of conduct problems in young boys? Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 45, 461467..
Weissman M. M., Warner V., Wickramaratne P. J., & Kandel D. B. (1999). Maternal smoking during pregnancy and psychopathology in offspring followed to adulthood. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 38, 892899.
Xu Z., Seidler F. J., Ali S. F., Slikker W. Jr., & Slotkin T. A. (2001). Fetal and adolescent nicotine administration: Effects on CNS serotonergic systems. Brain Research, 914, 166178.
Zoccolillo M. (2000). Parents' health and social adjustment: Part II, social adjustment. In Longitudinal study of child development in Québec (ELDEQ 1998–2002) (pp. 3745). Québec: Institut de la Statistique du Québec.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 51 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 209 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.