BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo's Research Institute
on Addictions has received a $3 million grant from the National
Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to study the behavioral and
biological differences between children exposed to cigarette
smoking and those not exposed.
The grant extends research by RIA's Rina Das Eiden, PhD, the
primary investigator, which began with the study of pregnant women
who smoked and their infants and toddlers at two, nine, 16, 24
months and 36 months.
The original research project, "Prenatal and Environmental
Tobacco Smoke Exposure: Effects on Child Regulation," funded by
NIDA from 2005 - 2012, allowed UB researchers to examine the
behaviors of pregnant smokers, as well as the impact of prenatal
exposure to cigarettes, on a child's development of
"self-regulation" -- the ability to modulate emotions and behave in
socially appropriate ways.
The project found that at two months, infants exposed to
cigarettes were less physiologically regulated during sleep
compared to non-exposed infants. At nine months, cigarette-exposed
infants were less regulated in their physiological reactions to a
frustrating situation than were non-exposed infants.
"This type of physiological dysregulation has been connected
with behavior problems in other studies. We also know that boys are
biologically more vulnerable," Eiden explains. One goal of the
research was to examine if this was due to child exposure to
nicotine or to the quality of the care giving environment, or a
combination of both.
With the new grant, Eiden will continue studying the children of
pregnant smokers up to school age. Issues of self-regulation, she
points out, become increasingly important as the child ages and may
predict social competence and success in school.
"The impact of maternal smoking is a significant public health
concern because of the likely cascade of negative developmental
effects on children's self-regulatory capacity, setting the stage
for problem behavior and poor social competence later in life.
"We know surprisingly little about the psychobiological
mechanisms that account for these negative effects, their risks and
protective factors that might exacerbate or buffer them.
Understanding these developmental processes is crucial for the
development of effective preventive interventions targeting
children of cigarette smoking mothers," says Eiden.
The goals of the newly funded research are:
--To examine the direct effects of cigarette exposure on
children's biological and behavioral processes, including effects
on endocrine and nervous systems and on self-regulation and social
competence in pre-school and school.
--To examine if the relationship between cigarette exposure and
these biological and behavioral outcomes are mediated by how
infants modulate their reactions to environmental challenges and
regulate their behavior in infancy.
--To examine if these associations may be moderated by birth
weight and gestational age (prematurity) or, on the maternal side,
by the mother's psychological profile, maternal warmth or harshness
, or by the cumulative risks in the environment such as poor
education, low maternal age and stress.
"If we can determine that these biological and behavioral
effects for children can be amended by maternal behavior, we may be
able to recommend interventions for families that help protect the
child from the potentially negative consequences of cigarette
exposure," says Eiden.
The NIDA grant funding extends from 2012 - 2017.