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Relationship between antisocial behaviour, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and maternal prenatal smoking

  • T. M. M. Button (a1), A. Thapar (a2) and P. McGuffin (a3)
Abstract
Background

There is substantial evidence that maternal smoking during pregnancy is associated with both antisocial behaviour and symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in offspring. However, it is not clear whether maternal smoking during pregnancy is independently associated with antisocial behaviour or whether the association arises because antisocial behaviour and ADHD covary.

Aims

To examine the relationship between maternal smoking during pregnancy, antisocial behaviour and ADHD in offspring.

Method

Questionnaires concerning behaviour and environmental factors were sent to twins from the CaStANET study and data analysed using a number of bivariate structural equation models.

Results

Maternal prenatal smoking contributed small but significant amounts to the variance of ADHD and of antisocial behaviour. The best fitting bivariate model was one in which maternal prenatal smoking had a specific influence on each phenotype, independent of the effect on the other phenotype.

Conclusions

Both antisocial behaviour and ADHD symptoms in offspring are independently influenced by maternal prenatal smoking during pregnancy.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Dr T. M. M. Button, Institute for Behavioral Genetics, 447 UCB, Boulder, CO80309-447, USA. E-mail: tanya.button@colorado.edu
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

None. Funding detailed in Acknowledgement.

Footnotes
References
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
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Relationship between antisocial behaviour, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and maternal prenatal smoking

  • T. M. M. Button (a1), A. Thapar (a2) and P. McGuffin (a3)
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eLetters

This may be due to increased maternal testosterone...

James M. Howard, biologist
19 August 2005

Increased serum testosterone is associated with cigarette smoking in women of childbearing age (Fertil Steril. 2005 Feb;83(2):302-8). Testosterone reduces conversion of DHEAS to DHEA, therefore, the background source of DHEA, DHEAS, is usually high when testosterone is high in many studies of women. DHEAS is not converted freely to DHEA whentestosterone is high.

I suggest that low maternal DHEA in utero adversely affects fetal brain development. This exposure of high maternal testosterone and high DHEAS may set a pattern of poor neonatal brain development. High DHEAS levels have been connected with "oppositional defiant disorder" (J Am AcadChild Adolesc Psychiatry. 2000 Nov;39(11):1446-51.) "DHEAS levels were significantly positively correlated with the intensity of aggression and delinquency as rated by both parents and teachers." (Biol Psychiatry. 1998Jan 15;43(2):156-8).

Smoking increases testosterone levels in postmenopausal women but does not increase DHEAS levels (Eur J Epidemiol. 2005;20(4):331-7). DHEASlevels in postmenopausal women have already begun to naturally decline, perhaps below a level affected by increased testosterone as a result of reduced conversion of testosterone to estradiol. Smoking in fertile womenprobably increases testosterone which adversely affects conversion of naturally high levels of DHEAS to DHEA of youth and adversely affects fetal brain development.
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