A study released this week suggests women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to rear children who are involved in delinquency.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies reports 12- to 13-year-olds whose mothers smoked frequently during pregnancy were 18% more likely to engage in crime than those whose mothers didn’t smoke.
But studies such as these can only look at potential associations; they cannot show cause and effect. So the results must be interpreted with caution.
The researchers did adjust their analysis to account for a range of factors: child, maternal and household characteristics; pregnancy and birth complications; and parenting style. However, it could be that smoking is a marker for other things such as poverty, low socioeconomic status and vulnerabilities that could not be accounted for or accurately measured.
It’s therefore likely that high levels of social disadvantage are actually being measured and smoking is a marker of this inequality.