Maternal Smoking During Pregnancy and Offspring Birth Weight: A Genetically-Informed Approach Comparing Multiple Raters

Valerie S. Knopik, Kristine Marceau, Rohan H.C. Palmer, Taylor F. Smith, Andrew C. Heath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Maternal smoking during pregnancy (SDP) is a significant public health concern with adverse consequences to the health and well-being of the fetus. There is considerable debate about the best method of assessing SDP, including birth/medical records, timeline follow-back approaches, multiple reporters, and biological verification (e.g., cotinine). This is particularly salient for genetically-informed approaches where it is not always possible or practical to do a prospective study starting during the prenatal period when concurrent biological specimen samples can be collected with ease. In a sample of families (N = 173) specifically selected for sibling pairs discordant for prenatal smoking exposure, we: (1) compare rates of agreement across different types of report—maternal report of SDP, paternal report of maternal SDP, and SDP contained on birth records from the Department of Vital Statistics; (2) examine whether SDP is predictive of birth weight outcomes using our best SDP report as identified via step (1); and (3) use a sibling-comparison approach that controls for genetic and familial influences that siblings share in order to assess the effects of SDP on birth weight. Results show high agreement between reporters and support the utility of retrospective report of SDP. Further, we replicate a causal association between SDP and birth weight, wherein SDP results in reduced birth weight even when accounting for genetic and familial confounding factors via a sibling comparison approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-364
Number of pages12
JournalBehavior genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Birth weight
  • Genetics
  • Multiple reporters
  • Sibling comparison design
  • Smoking during pregnancy


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