Exploring alternate processes contributing to the association between maternal smoking and the smoking behavior among young adult offspring

Arielle S. Selya*, Lauren S. Wakschlag, Lisa C. Dierker, Jennifer S. Rose, Donald Hedeker, Robin J. Mermelstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Introduction: Maternal smoking during pregnancy (MSP) is a known risk factor for regular smoking in young adulthood and may pose a risk independently of mother's lifetime smoking. The processes through which MSP exerts this influence are unknown but may occur through greater smoking quantity and frequency following initiation early in adolescence or increased sensitivity to nicotine dependence (ND) at low levels of smoking. Methods: This study used path analysis to investigate adolescent smoking quantity, smoking frequency, and ND as potential simultaneous mediating pathways through which MSP and mother's lifetime smoking (whether she has ever smoked) increase the risk of smoking in young adulthood among experimenters (at baseline, <100 cigarettes/lifetime) and current smokers (>100 cigarettes/lifetime). Results: For experimenters, MSP was directly associated with more frequent young adult smoking and was not mediated by adolescent smoking behavior or ND. Independently of MSP, the effect of mother's lifetime smoking was fully mediated through frequent smoking and was heightened ND during adolescence. Controlling for MSP eliminated a previously observed direct association between mother's lifetime smoking and future smoking among experimenters. For current smokers, only prior smoking behavior was associated with future smoking frequency. Conclusions: These results seem to rule out sensitivity to ND and increased smoking behavior as contributing pathways of MSP. Further, the impact of MSP on young adult smoking extends beyond that of having an ever-smoking mother. Future work should test other possible mediators; for example, MSP-related epigenetic changes or gene variants influencing the brain's nicotine response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1873-1882
Number of pages10
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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