A study conducted by Harvard University recently suggested that mothers who smoke heavily during pregnancy are more likely than non-smokers to have children who grow up to be criminals. The study, which was first published online in November 2010, followed 4,000 pregnancies and crime rates of children resulting from them.
Will smoking during pregnancy increase your child’s chances of being a criminal? Well, not really. Even given this study, it would be a jump to say that smoking during pregnancy is now a proven cause of long-term crime. Here are some points to consider.
1. It’s not as dramatic as you think.
The authors of the Harvard study only found an increased risk of crime in children whose mothers smoked very heavily during pregnancy. Women who smoked more than a pack a day throughout the duration of pregnancy were more likely to have kids who committed crime as adults. The study found a 30% increase in the risk of criminal activity in children born to these pregnancies. There were no increases in criminal activity among children born to mothers who smoked lightly during pregnancy.
2. Parenting is key.
A woman who smokes more an a pack a day during pregnancy has already decided that she does not value her child’s wellbeing over her own comfort. Parenting begins before birth, and a heavily smoking mother has already set a dangerous standard. Mothers who smoke while pregnant are very likely to make other bad parenting decisions– and these choices, not necessarily the choice to smoke, are what create kids with criminal minds.
3. Family history has an effect.
Mothers who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have criminal children, but it isn’t necessarily because of the in-the-womb exposure to toxins. Women who smoke heavily during pregnancy are likely dealing with mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Mental illness does tend to run in families, and it can influence a child’s chances of engaging in criminal activity.
4. There are plenty of other reasons not to smoke during pregnancy– or ever.
So, Harvard’s study failed to conclusively prove that smoking during pregnancy will make your child a criminal. That doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. Smoking during pregnancy leads to a variety of serious health problems for the baby, including prematurity, low birth-weight, asthma and neurological problems. Regardless of tobacco’s influence on your unborn baby’s future criminal record, you should abstain from it during pregnancy.
Click here for the full study, published by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.