Within-Family Effects of Smoking during Pregnancy on ADHD: the Importance of Phenotype

Kristine Marceau, L. Cinnamon Bidwell, Hollis C. Karoly, Allison Schettini Evans, Alexandre A. Todorov, Rohan H. Palmer, Andrew C. Heath, Valerie S. Knopik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


We sought to test within- and between- family associations of smoking during pregnancy (SDP) and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms using a structured interview based on the conventional Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV) symptoms and the Strengths and Weaknesses of ADHD-Symptoms and Normal-Behavior (SWAN) scale, which is a population based measure that grew out of the notion that an ADHD diagnosis exists on the extreme end of a continuum of normative behaviors and includes both above- and below- average performance on attention and activity. We used a sibling-comparison approach in a sample of 173 families including siblings aged 7–16 years (52% male) drawn from the state of Missouri, USA, wherein mothers smoked during one pregnancy but not the other. There was a within-family effect of smoking during pregnancy on SWAN hyperactivity/impulsivity and SWAN total ADHD behaviors. The associations between SDP and DSM-IV-based ADHD symptom dimensions as well as SWAN inattention were explained by familial confounds. These findings suggest that SDP exerts a potentially causal effect on increased ADHD hyperactive/impulsive behaviors and that this SDP effect is best captured when hyperactivity/impulsivity is assessed more normatively across the population, rather than specifically assessing problematic behaviors via DSM symptoms. Thus, any potentially causal effect of SDP on ADHD symptom dimensions may be restricted to hyperactive/impulsive behaviors rather than inattention, and normative, non-DSM-IV based behavioral measures may provide a more sensitive test of mechanisms of SDP-ADHD symptom associations, particularly in non-clinical samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)685-699
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • DSM-iv
  • Family research
  • Prenatal exposure
  • Smoking


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