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Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2009 Aug;18(8):465-75. doi: 10.1007/s00787-009-0001-3. Epub 2009 Mar 14.

Effects of maternal and paternal smoking on attentional control in children with and without ADHD.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Donders Centre for Neuroscience, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, P.O. Box 9101, HP 966, Nijmegen 6500 HB, The Netherlands.


Maternal smoking during pregnancy is a risk factor for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but data on its adverse effects on cognitive functioning are sparse and inconsistent. Since the effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy may be due to correlated genetic risk factors rather than being a pure environmental effect, we examined the effect of prenatal exposure to smoking on attentional control, taking into account the effects of both maternal and paternal smoking, and examined whether these effects were genetically mediated by parental genotypes. We further examined whether the effect of prenatal exposure to smoking on attentional control interacted with genotypes of the child. Participants were 79 children with ADHD, ascertained for the International Multi-centre ADHD Gene project (IMAGE), and 105 normal controls. Attentional control was assessed by a visual continuous performance task. Three genetic risk factors for ADHD (DRD4 7-repeat allele of the exon 3 variable number of tandem repeats (VNTR), DAT1 10/10 genotype of the VNTR located in the 3' untranslated region, and the DAT1 6/6 genotype of the intron 8 VNTR) were included in the analyses. Paternal smoking had a negative effect on attentional control in children with ADHD and this effect appeared to be mediated by genetic risk factors. The prenatal smoking effect did not interact with genotypes of the child. Maternal smoking had no main effect on attentional control, which may be due to lower smoking rates. This study suggests that the effects of paternal smoking on attentional control in children with ADHD should be considered a proxy for ADHD and/or smoking risk genes. Future studies should examine if the results can be generalized to other cognitive domains.

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