Aggressive behaviour in childhood and adolescence: the role of smoking during pregnancy, evidence from four twin cohorts in the EU-ACTION consortium

Margherita Malanchini, Emily Smith-Woolley, Ziada Ayorech, Kaili Rimfeld, Eva Krapohl, Eero Vuoksimaa, Tellervo Korhonen, Meike Bartels, Toos C E M van Beijsterveldt, Richard J Rose, Sebastian Lundström, Henrik Anckarsäter, Jaakko Kaprio, Paul Lichtenstein, Dorret I Boomsma, Robert Plomin

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Maternal smoking during pregnancy (MSDP) has been linked to offspring's externalizing problems. It has been argued that socio-demographic factors (e.g. maternal age and education), co-occurring environmental risk factors, or pleiotropic genetic effects may account for the association between MSDP and later outcomes. This study provides a comprehensive investigation of the association between MSDP and a single harmonized component of externalizing: aggressive behaviour, measured throughout childhood and adolescence.

METHODS: Data came from four prospective twin cohorts - Twins Early Development Study, Netherlands Twin Register, Childhood and Adolescent Twin Study of Sweden, and FinnTwin12 study - who collaborate in the EU-ACTION consortium. Data from 30 708 unrelated individuals were analysed. Based on item level data, a harmonized measure of aggression was created at ages 9-10; 12; 14-15 and 16-18.

RESULTS: MSDP predicted aggression in childhood and adolescence. A meta-analysis across the four samples found the independent effect of MSDP to be 0.4% (r = 0.066), this remained consistent when analyses were performed separately by sex. All other perinatal factors combined explained 1.1% of the variance in aggression across all ages and samples (r = 0.112). Paternal smoking and aggressive parenting strategies did not account for the MSDP-aggression association, consistent with the hypothesis of a small direct link between MSDP and aggression.

CONCLUSIONS: Perinatal factors, including MSDP, account for a small portion of the variance in aggression in childhood and adolescence. Later experiences may play a greater role in shaping adolescents' aggressive behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)646-654
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Medicine
Volume49
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

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