Separating Family-Level and Direct Exposure Effects of Smoking During Pregnancy on Offspring Externalizing Symptoms: Bridging the Behavior Genetic and Behavior Teratologic Divide

Ryne Estabrook, Suena H. Massey, Caron A C Clark, James L. Burns, Brian S. Mustanski, Edwin H. Cook, T. Caitlin O’Brien, Beth Makowski, Kimberly Andrews Espy, Lauren S. Wakschlag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


Maternal smoking during pregnancy (MSDP) has been robustly associated with externalizing problems and their developmental precursors in offspring in studies using behavioral teratologic designs (Wakschlag et al., Am J Public Health 92(6):966–974, 2002; Espy et al., Dev Psychol 47(1):153–169, 2011). In contrast, the use of behavior genetic approaches has shown that the effects commonly attributed to MSDP can be explained by family-level variables (D’Onofrio et al., Dev Psychopathol 20(01):139–164, 2008). Reconciling these conflicting findings requires integration of these study designs. We utilize longitudinal data on a preschool proband and his/her sibling from the Midwest Infant Development Study-Preschool (MIDS-P) to test for teratologic and family level effects of MSDP. We find considerable variation in prenatal smoking patterns both within and across pregnancies within families, indicating that binary smoking measures are not sufficiently capturing exposure. Structural equation models indicate that both conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder symptoms showed unique effects of MSDP over and above family level effects. Blending high quality exposure measurement with a within-family design suggests that it is premature to foreclose the possibility of a teratologic effect of MSDP on externalizing problems. Implications and recommendations for future studies are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalBehavior Genetics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Nov 18 2015



  • Child development
  • Externalizing disorders
  • Maternal smoking during pregnancy
  • Multivariate Analyses
  • Within-family designs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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