Parental smoking and adolescent problem behavior: An adoption study of general and specific effects

Margaret Keyes, Lisa N. Legrand, William G. Iacono, Matt McGue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: It is essential to understand the effect of parental smoking on offspring tobacco use. In biologically related families, parents who smoke may transmit a nonspecific genetic risk for offspring disinhibited behavior, including tobacco use. Studying adoptive families allows one to control for genetic confounding when examining the environmental effect of exposure to parental smoking. The purpose of this study was to examine the genetic and environmental contributions to the risk represented by exposure to parental smoking and to assess the specificity of that risk. Methods: Adolescents adopted in infancy were systematically ascertained from records of three private Minnesota adoption agencies; nonadopted adolescents were ascertained from Minnesota birth records. Adolescents and their rearing parents participated in all assessments in person. The main outcome measures were self-reports of behavioral deviance, substance use, and personality, as well as DSM-IV clinical assessments of childhood disruptive disorders. Results: The data from adoptive families suggest that exposure to parental smoking represents an environmental risk for substance use in adolescent offspring. In biologically related families, the effect of exposure to parental smoking is larger and more diverse, including substance use, disruptive behavior disorders, delinquency, deviant peer affiliations, aggressive attitudes, and preference for risk taking. Conclusions: This study provides evidence for an environmentally mediated pathway by which parental smoking increases risk specifically for substance use in adolescent offspring. The data are also consistent with a genetically mediated pathway by which nonadoptive parents who smoke may also transmit a nonspecific genetic risk to their offspring for disinhibited behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1338-1344
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Volume165
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2008

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