Inhibitory control in siblings discordant for exposure to maternal smoking during pregnancy

Lauren Micalizzi, Kristine Marceau, Leslie A. Brick, Rohan H. Palmer, Alexandre A. Todorov, Andrew C. Heath, Allison Evans, Valerie S. Knopik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Maternal smoking during pregnancy (SDP) has been linked to poorer offspring executive function across development, but SDP does not occur independent of other familial risk factors. As such, poor and inconsistent control for potential confounds, notably shared familial (i.e., genetic and environmental) confounds, preclude concluding causal effects of SDP on child outcomes. We examined the withinfamily association between SDP and one component of executive function, inhibitory control, in a sample of families (N=173) specifically selected for sibling pairs discordant for exposure to SDP. Thus, the present study examines if the SDP-inhibitory control association withstands rigorous control for potential child and familial confounds. 79% of the variation in child inhibitory control was attributable to within-family differences and 21% was attributable to differences between families, indicating that the variability in inhibitory control was primarily a function of differences between siblings rather than differences across families. Further, the association between SDP and inhibitory control was fully attenuated when confounds were considered. These findings suggest that co-occurring vulnerabilities act as more salient risk factors for poorer child inhibitory control than SDP and may serve as effective targets of interventions seeking to improve children's inhibitory control in families with nicotine dependent mothers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-208
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Behavioral genetics
  • Executive function
  • Inhibitory control
  • Maternal smoking during pregnancy
  • Sibling comparison


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