Development and Psychopathology

Research Article

Maternal prenatal smoking, parental antisocial behavior, and early childhood physical aggression

Stephan C. J. Huijbregtsa1 c1, Jean R. Séguina2, Mark Zoccolilloa3, Michel Boivina4 and Richard E. Tremblaya2

a1 Leiden University

a2 University of Montreal

a3 McGill University

a4 Laval University


This study investigated joint effects of maternal prenatal smoking and parental history of antisocial behavior on physical aggression between ages 17 and 42 months in a population sample of children born in Québec (N = 1,745). An analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed significant main effects of maternal prenatal smoking and a significant interaction between maternal prenatal smoking and mother's history of antisocial behavior in the prediction of children's probability to display high and rising physical aggression. The interaction indicated that the effects of heavy smoking during pregnancy (≥10 cigarettes/day) were greater when the mother also had a serious history of antisocial behavior. The effects remained significant after the introduction of control variables (e.g., hostile-reactive parenting, family functioning, parental separation/divorce, family income, and maternal education). Another significant interaction not accounted for by control variables was observed for maternal prenatal smoking and family income, indicating more serious effects of maternal prenatal smoking under relatively low-income, conditions. Both interactions indicate critical adversities that, in combination with maternal prenatal smoking, have supra-additive effects on (the development of) physical aggression during early childhood. These findings may have implications for the selection of intervention targets and strategies.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Stephan Huijbregts, Department of Clinical Child and Adolescent Studies, Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Faculty of Social Sciences, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands; E-mail:


This work was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR ZH4-35619 and MOP-44072), Fonds Québécois de Recherche sur la Société et la Culture (FQRSC 2002-RS-79238), Fonds de Recherche en Santé du Québec Career Scientist Award to J.R.S., Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC 412-2000-1003), and the Québec Ministry of Health. We are grateful to l'Institut de la Statistique du Québec and its partners for data collection and preparation and to Charles Édouard Giguère and Qian Xu for data management.