Parental Tobacco Use and Psychosis in Offspring

Maternal Choices Made Today Linked to Psychotic Symptoms Years Later

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We all know the choices we make impact ourselves for good or bad. If we choose to ignore the importance of exercise for our health we will suffer the consequences of inactivity–lower our quality of life and probably shorten it as well.

But what about the impact our choices have on others? Texting on a cell phone while driving is a good example. We easily point our fingers at those who do and cause accidents that injure or kill others. Driving while intoxicated is another example. We shake our heads when an inebriated driver causes a serious accident, and are quick to blame the driver. (My parents and baby daughter were miraculously saved from death a number of years ago when a drunk driver going the wrong way on the freeway hit their vehicle head-on.)

Today we accept the consequences of cigarette smoking not only to the smoker but also those who are exposed to the second-hand smoke as well. Consequently, smoking is prohibited in many public places–for the good of the public’s health.

Yet many smokers are so gripped by the claws of tobacco that even when they become pregnant, they continue smoking. In the UK 15-20% of women continue to smoke during pregnancy. Researchers in England have recently reported that children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy are at increased risk for psychotic symptoms by age 12. 

This longitudinal study of 6400 children has provided more evidence that exogenous agents that are relatively harmless to the mother during pregnancy may have subtle detrimental neurological effects on the child years in the future. There is rather robust evidence that tobacco use during pregnancy is associated with adverse long-term effects on the offspring like reduced cognitive ability and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Parental Tobacco Use and Psychosis in OffspringAs you can see in the graph, when adjusted for confounders there was a significant dose-response increase in risk for psychotic symptoms in offspring when mothers smoked during pregnancy. Also, the investigators found a link between the use of more than 21 alcoholic drinks per week and psychotic symptoms.

In this and other areas we are being forced to recognize that “no man is an island” and the impact of our choices today may not be seen in our lifetime, but may become problems for the next generation. Although no longer popular, the Ten Commandments declare: “I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations…” (Exodus 20:5 NLT).

Let’s think carefully and act wisely in the choices we make today!

Author

For over 35 years, Dr. Hardinge has been communicating the message “Your choices can lead you to be healthy and more productive!” to a wide variety of audiences. His background includes pastoring, academic teaching, community health education, corporate training and consultation, administration and private health counseling.