Pagani LS, Fitzpatrick C. (2015). Early childhood household smoke exposure predicts less task-oriented classroom behavior at age 10. Health Education & Behavior. 58, 543-550.
Secondhand tobacco smoke is considered a developmental neurotoxicant especially given underdeveloped vital systems in young children. An ecological test of its negative influence on brain development can be made by examining the prospective association between early childhood household smoke exposure and later classroom behavior. Using a longitudinal birth cohort, we examined the unique contribution of household tobacco smoke exposure to children’s subsequent classroom engagement at age 10. From child ages 1.5 to 7 years, parents of 2,055 participants from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development reported on household smoking by themselves and other home occupants. At age 10, fourth-grade teachers reported on the child’s classroom engagement. In terms of prevalence, 58% of parents reported that their children were never exposed to smoke in the home, while 34% and 8% of children were exposed to transient and continuous household smoke, respectively. Compared with never exposed children, those who were exposed to transient and continuous household smoke scored 13% and 9% of a standard deviation lower on classroom engagement in fourth grade, standardized B = −.128 (95% confidence interval = −.186, −.069) and standardized B = −.093 (95% confidence interval = −.144, −.043), respectively. Compared with their never exposed peers, children exposed to transient and continuous early childhood household smoke showed proportionately less classroom engagement, which reflects task-orientation, following directions, and working well autonomously and with others. This predisposition poses risks for high school dropout, which from a population health perspective is closely linked with at-risk lifestyle habits and unhealthy outcomes.