Maternal smoking habits have been associated with multiple psychological issues in offspring, but researchers from the University of Missouri believe confounding factors may play a more important role than the direct effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy. The study was published in the journal Behavior Genetics.

The research team plugged a large representative sample of children in the United States into a growth curve model. Sibling pairs were used for the study. Researchers noticed effects in offspring directly associated with maternal smoking during pregnancy, but when familial traits (confounding factors) were taken into consideration, not all effects were the same.

Conclusion: Confounding factors like environment and genetics may play a more important role in the effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy on psychological and cognitive outcome than simple exposure to smoke. As familial variables changed so did effects on offspring.

Source: Ellingson JM, Goodnight JA, Van Hulle CA, Waldman ID, D'Onofrio BM. A Sibling-Comparison Study of Smoking During Pregnancy and Childhood Psychological Traits. Behav Genet. 2013 Oct 2.