November 19, 2012. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by Yale School of Medicine has found that there is a direct association between women who smoke more than one pack a day during their pregnancies and their children's eventual lower reading comprehension and accuracy abilities.
According to News Max Health, Lead author Dr. Jeffrey Gruen (left), professor of pediatrics and genetics at Yale School of Medicine, said of the findings,
“It’s not a little difference — it’s a big difference in accuracy and comprehension at a critical time when children are being assessed, and are getting a sense of what it means to be successful."
also points out that the effects of smoking in pregnancy are especially
pronounced in children with an underlying phonological (i.e., speech)
deficit, suggesting an interaction between an environmental exposure
(smoking) and a highly heritable trait (phonological ability).
“The interaction between nicotine exposure and phonology suggests a significant gene-by-environment interaction, making children with an underlying phonological deficit particularly vulnerable,” he said.
Despite public health initiatives to discourage smoking while pregnant, as many as one in six pregnant Americans still smoke cigarettes according to national surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In the study's abstract, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, the researchers stated their results:
"We found that prenatal nicotine exposure was associated with increased risk of underperformance in specific reading skill outcomes...The effect of poor performance in decoding single words was most pronounced among children with prenatal exposure to high levels of nicotine in conjunction with a phonological deficit. Overall, the results showed that maternal smoking has moderate to large associations with delayed or decreased reading skills of children in the Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children."
When California's Children asked Dr. Gruen what the implications of his study were for public policy, he said "The message is so loud and persuasive..." he also said "Smoking while pregnant is particularly deleterious in children who have an underlying phonological deficit."
Gruen also said that this is the first large scale clinical study specifically linking reading tasks with environmental factors, and that further research will also take influential factors such as the environment into consideration. The next study, says Gruen, will focus on genetic origins of learning disabilities. Working with Gruen on this first report were: Kelly Cho, Jan C. Frijters, Heping Zhang and Laura L. Miller.
Written and researched by:Taylor McCulloch