Is prenatal smoking associated with a developmental pattern of conduct problems in young boys?

Lauren S. Wakschlag*, Kate E. Pickett, Kristen E. Kasza, Rolf Loeber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Objective: Prenatal smoking is robustly associated with increased risk of conduct problems in offspring. Observational studies that provide detailed phenotypic description are critical for generating testable hypotheses about underlying processes through which the effects of prenatal smoking may operate. To this end, we use a developmental framework to examine the association of exposure with (1) oppositional defiant disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in young boys and (2) the pattern of delinquent behavior at adolescence. Method: Using diagnostic measures and repeated measures of delinquency, we compare exposed and nonexposed boys from the youngest cohort of the Pittsburgh Youth Study (N = 448). Results: Exposed boys were significantly more likely to (1) develop oppositional defiant disorder and comorbid oppositional defiant disorder-attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder but not attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder alone and (2) to have an earlier onset of significant delinquent behavior. Conclusions: The early emergence and developmental coherence of exposure-related conduct problems is striking and is consistent with a behavioral teratological model. Phenotypically, exposure-related conduct problems appear to be characterized by socially resistant and impulsively aggressive behavior. Whether prenatal smoking plays an etiological role in or is a risk marker for the development of conduct problems, exposed offspring are at increased risk of an early-starter pathway to conduct problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-467
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Antisocial behavior
  • Delinquency
  • Developmental psychopathology
  • Prenatal smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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