Kids Of Mothers Who Smoked During Pregnancy Show Reading Deficits
November 20, 2012

Smoking During Pregnancy Possibly Lowers Child’s Reading Ability

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Scientists from the Yale School of Medicine recently discovered that mothers who smoked during pregnancy affected the reading scores of their infants, so much so that the children scored lower on exams that measured the accuracy of their ability to read aloud and to comprehend the reading material that they had in front of them.

In particular, the mothers included in the research project smoked over one pack per day during their pregnancy. The scientist analyzed the data of over 5,000 children pooled from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which included the participation of 15,211 children between the years of 1990 and 1992 at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. The results of the study by the team of investigators from Yale University were recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

"It's not a little difference – it's a big difference in accuracy and comprehension at a critical time when children are being assessed, and are getting a sense of what it means to be successful," noted the study´s lead author Dr. Jeffrey Gruen, a professor of pediatrics and genetics at Yale School of medicine, in a prepared statement.

The researchers compared the children´s outcome on seven specific areas in relation to cigarette smoking by mothers. These particular outcomes included reading accuracy, reading speed, identification of single words, real and non-word reading, and reading comprehension. The scientists also adjusted for 14 different factors, such as mother-child interactions and socioeconomic status. They discovered that, on average, children who had been exposed to high levels of nicotine when in the womb tested 21 points lower in the measurement areas as compared to other students who were born to mothers who did not smoke. The children were evaluated at seven years of age and also nine years of age.

Furthermore, the article in the Journal of Pediatrics highlighted how smoking during pregnancy can lead to speech deficits in a child. As such, it is possible that there is a connection between environmental exposure to smoking and heritable traits like phonological ability.

"The interaction between nicotine exposure and phonology suggests a significant gene-by-environment interaction, making children with an underlying phonological deficit particularly vulnerable," concluded Gruen in the statement.

The United Kingdom Medical Research Council Center, the Wellcome Trust, the National Institutes of Health, as well as the University of Bristol funded the study.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking and tobacco use continues to be an issue. Smoking can affect every organ in the body, leading to the development of different diseases and impacting the general health of an individual. Quitting smoking can provide long-term benefits for both the smoker and his or her family members. In particular, second hand smoke gives off over 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic and some of which can even cause cancer. Children who are affected by secondhand smoke can have ear infections, respiratory symptoms like shortness of breath or sneezing, respiratory infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia, and have a great risk for developing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).