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Does smoking in pregnancy create criminals?

Mums-to-be who smoked heavily during their pregnancy found to be more likely to have babies who grow up committing crimes

Posted: 16 November 2010
by Kimberley Smith
Woman smoking in pregnancy
The mums to be who smoked heavily were most at risk of criminal children

Children of mums who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day during pregnancy are more likely to go on to have a criminal record. This is the remarkable conclusion of a study just published in the US.

Nearly 4,000 women were interviewed between 1959 and 1966 about their lifestyle during pregnancy. In 1999 and 2000, when all their children were over the age of 33, the researchers ran criminal checks. They discovered that those children whose mums had smoked heavily during pregnancy were 31% more likely to have a criminal record. The link remained even when social and economic factors were accounted for.

Though the researchers could not say definitively that smoking in pregnancy led to criminality, they have put forward suggestions that nicotine may affect brain development.

“The study adds to a substantial body of evidence linking smoking in pregnancy to difficult temperament in infants, behaviour problems in children and antisocial behavior in adult offspring,” said Professor Kate Pickett from the University of York.

In the 1960s, when these mums were pregnant, smoking was much more common in pregnancy than today as less was known about the health implications.

Smoking in pregnancy can cause complications such as low birth weight and preterm birth. Find out more about smoking in pregnancy and tips to help you quit.


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