Are empathic processes mechanisms of pregnancy's protective effect on smoking? Identification of a novel target for preventive intervention

Suena H. Massey*, Christopher Ryne Estabrook, Leiszle Lapping-Carr, Rebecca L. Newmark, Jean Decety, Katherine L. Wisner, Lauren S. Wakschlag

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Spontaneous cessation and reduction in smoking by pregnant women suggest that concern about others, or empathy, could be a malleable target for intervention. We examined various empathy-related processes in relations to reported and biochemically assessed smoking during pregnancy. Methods: Participants were 154 pregnant women (M = 12.4 weeks gestation, SD = 4.6) who were smoking cigarettes immediately prior to pregnancy recognition (85 had quit and 69 were still smoking at enrollment). Empathy-related processes were measured with performance-based paradigms (affect sharing, empathic concern, and theory of mind) and a speech sample (expressed emotion). Smoking was assessed with timeline follow back interviews and urine cotinine assays. Using zero-inflated Poisson regression models, we tested direct and interactive effects of empathy-related processes with respect to biologically verified smoking cessation (zero portion); and mean cigarettes/day smoked after pregnancy recognition among persistent smokers (count portion). Results: Affect sharing was inversely related to post-recognition cigarettes/day (B(SE) = -0.17(0.07), 95%C.I. -0.30,-0.04, p =.011) and moderated the relationship between pre-recognition smoking and post-recognition smoking consistent with a buffering effect (B(SE) = -.17(0.05); 95%C.I. - 0.28,-0.06; p =.002). Other empathy related processes showed neither direct nor interactive effects on smoking outcomes. Conclusions: Further research is recommended to clarify the role of empathy in pregnancy smoking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115071
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume305
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Keywords

  • Empathy
  • Expressed emotion
  • Pregnancy smoking
  • Prevention
  • Protective factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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