Study Linking Mom's Smoking to Son's Crime: Riddled With Errors

We're not telling you it's harmless to smoke during pregnancy.

The recent study on the effect of smoking late in pregnancy was broadcast on every media outlet on the planet. They would have you believe that by smoking, mothers cause nicotine to pass to their future male child in utero, changing the basic structure of his forming brain for the worse. These researchers told the world that the number of cigarettes that a man's mom had smoked in the last 3 months of pregnancy would predict how likely he was to be a criminal. Violent criminal rates were doubled for offspring of about a pack a day compared to non-smokers.

The study had great beginnings. It interviewed a bunch of women who gave birth some 40 years ago. It interviewed them again after a year to see how mom was doing with the little guy. Then, it looked at their criminal records as adults. That way, no mom with a kid gone wrong would exaggerate in her memory things that could be blamed. Moreover, moms of Mr. Perfect would not be inclined to forget her old three pack a day habit and paint the past as idyllic. Nevertheless, these researchers snatched conjecture from the jaws of conclusion.

"But We Standardized for Everything"
Smoking is related to a whole host of social factors that makes for a not-so-pleasant home environment, including drug abuse, alcoholism, mental illness, domestic violence, and low socio-economic status, to name a few. Before anyone could criticize this a correlation and not a cause and effect thing, they quickly went through the litany of factors they standardized.

Their control for maternal drug use turned out to be prescription drugs only. Street drugs were not asked about for mother or father. How about alcoholism? Not asked about either. Big mistakes.

Socio-economic status was flubbed as well. This is by far the most important thing to standardize for, as their measure of criminal behavior was arrests by law enforcement. Arrests are more likely to flag poor delinquents or souls in the wrong place at the wrong time, while their well-off counterparts are taken home to the parents. They failed to collect socio-economic data in almost an eighth of subjects and categorized them as average. While they claimed to standardize for this at the time, they failed to analyze the decision later. Occupation was the only indicator of socio-economic status and there were only three levels.

The mother's criminal history was never addressed. Psychiatric history was determined to be present only if there was hospitalization in a psychiatric unit. This ignores the common practice of that generation of medical hospital admissions for "rest," as well as the gamut of mental illnesses that will not land one in the hospital.

The mother's rejection of her son and the relationship with birth complications and later arrests were all inter-related. This type of inter-relatedness could nullify their main conclusion, but they brushed off the issue.

There was No Brain Dissection Here
It seems apparent that the idea that pre-natal nicotine is rearranging Junior's neurons was pure speculation on the part of the researchers, which they themselves admit. This study was all social history. Any evidence that the brains were physically different, let alone different due to nicotine, was not looked at.

The relationship between the number of Camels puffed and the need to add a Bail Bond Card to your baby shower gift list is circumstantial. However, we are not saying that it is harmless to smoke during pregnancy.

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