Maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy and the trajectory of externalizing and internalizing symptoms across childhood: Similarities and differences across parent, teacher, and self reports.


Maternal smoking during pregnancy (MSDP) has been associated with symptoms of externalizing (e.g., hyperactivity) and internalizing (e.g., emotional) disorders in childhood. The present research addresses two new questions about the nature of this relation: (1) Do the associations between MSDP and externalizing and internalizing symptoms vary by who reports the symptoms? and (2) Is MSDP associated with changes in symptomatology across childhood? We address these questions with two cohorts from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Parents and teachers completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire up to six times every two years between child ages 4 and 14 in the older cohort (N = 3841) and up to four times between child ages 4 and 10 in the younger cohort (N = 3714); the study children also completed the same questionnaire up to three times starting at age 10. Across the two cohorts, MSDP was associated with more externalizing symptoms as reported by parents, teachers, and self. MSDP was also associated with increases in externalizing symptoms across childhood when teachers assessed the symptoms but not when parents assessed them. Finally, MSDP was not consistently associated with the average level of internalizing symptoms, but it was associated with increases in these symptoms across childhood. The present research indicates a robust association between MSDP and the average level of externalizing symptoms in childhood regardless of who reports the symptoms. It also indicates that whether MSDP is associated with the trajectory of externalizing symptomatology depends on who reports on the symptoms.