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.