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When Parents Smoke, Kids' Weight, Behavior May Suffer
Date:6/28/2010

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) -- Two new studies suggest there's a connection between parents who smoke and kids who are heavier or misbehave more than other children.

The researchers haven't definitively proven that lighting up puts kids at risk for bad behavior and extra pounds. In fact, it may be impossible to ever prove a cause-and-effect because it's considered unethical to assign some parents to smoke and then see what happens.

Still, the findings "tighten the link" between parents who smoke and physical and mental health problems in their kids, said Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, an associate professor of pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital, who co-wrote a commentary accompanying the research.

For decades, doctors have advised pregnant women to avoid smoking for fear that they would harm their unborn children; research has linked smoking in mothers to physical problems in offspring such as low birth weight. If the mother smokes during the first trimester, the effects are worse than in later trimesters, said Neil E. Grunberg, a professor of medical and clinical psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, in Bethesda, Md.

But it hasn't been as clear whether there's a connection between mothers who smoke and other health problems in their kids. And the influence of fathers who smoke -- exposing their kids to secondhand smoke or perhaps affecting sperm at conception -- has also remained a mystery.

In one of the new studies, researchers examined what happened to kids whose fathers smoked but their mothers did not. Researchers from the University of Hong Kong studied 7,924 kids from that region who were born in 1997.

The researchers found that the kids who had fathers who smoked were more likely to be heavier at ages 7 or 11 after the statistics were adjusted so they wouldn't be thrown off by factors such as gender and socioe
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