MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- A new study has found a link between secondhand smoke exposure in pregnant women and developmental delays in their children.
The study- conducted by Florida International University - found that pre-natal exposure to cigarette smoke showed lower levels of self-control in children and adolescents.
According to researchers, low-self control is one of the strongest known causes of delinquent and criminal behavior.
The more frequently a non-smoking expectant mother reported being around smokers, the lower the trajectory for development of self-control for her child between the ages of 4 and 15. That same connection was found even after accounting for other factors including maternal IQ, maternal self-control, maternal education and family income.
Their conclusions were made after a 15-year study in which researchers collected information from more than 750 non-smoking mothers and their children. The study was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
One of the authors of the study, FIU Criminal Justice Professor Ryan Meldrum, says he hopes his research will raise greater awareness about the dangers of secondhand smoke during pregnancy.
"First, it draws greater attention to the consequences of maternal exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy that go beyond health concerns by linking such exposure to factors like low self-control that are relevant to broader discussions of antisocial behavior," said Meldrum. "Second, it highlights the fact that differences in self-control between individuals are not due simply to socialization that takes places within families and peer groups during adolescence."
Meldrum says he'd like to see policymakers try to find new ways to reduce expectant mothers' exposure to secondhand smoke.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have, for years, documented the health consequences of secondhand smoke. Click here for more information.
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