Maternal smoking during pregnancy and scholastic achievement in childhood: evidence from the LIFECOURSE cohort study

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Background: Research on the impact of maternal smoking during pregnancy (MSDP) on scholastic achievement in the offspring has shown conflicting findings. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of MSDP on scholastic achievement in a birth cohort of children in 4th, 7th and 10th grades. Methods: We analysed data from the LIFECOURSE study, a cohort study of risk and protective factors in all children born in Reykjavik, Iceland, in the year 2000 (N = 1151, girls = 49.3%). Retrospective registry data for 2014–2015 were merged with prospective survey data that were collected in April 2016. Data on MSDP were assessed during regular antenatal visits at the end of the first trimester. Standardized academic achievement scores were obtained from official school transcripts. Data were analysed using OLS regressions that were entered in three hierarchical blocks. Results: Children of mothers who smoked tobacco during the first trimester consistently revealed between 5% and 7% lower scores on standardized academic achievement in 4th, 7th and 10th grade (6–8 points on a normally distributed 120 point scale) than those of mothers who had not smoked tobacco during this period (P < 0.05). These findings held after controlling for several factors associated with the time of birth (e.g. birth weight, maternal age at birth, birth order, parental cohabitation and household income), as well as the year of scholastic assessment (parental cohabitation, household income and parental education). Conclusions: Maternal smoking during pregnancy was negatively related to scholastic achievement in the offspring during 4th, 7th and 10th grade.