The effects of mothers' attitudes and concerns about tobacco use on whether their children take up smoking are largely unknown. This study examined the predictive effects of mothers' attitudes about tobacco and concerns about their children smoking.
Self-reported data from a large number of 12th-grade students (2,736) and their mothers were used. Mothers' attitudes and concerns were assessed when their children were 3rd graders (age 8), at the start of the smoking acquisition period; their children were then followed prospectively (with attrition of only 5%) for 9 years to the end of the period (12th grade) for the assessment of smoking behavior.
In households in which both parents are nonsmokers, strong maternal antismoking attitudes are associated with a statistically significant approximately 50% reduction (P < 0.05) in the prevalence of smoking by adolescent children. In contrast, in households in which one or both parents are current smokers, there was no reduction in adolescent smoking associated with mothers' antismoking attitudes.
Maternal antismoking attitudes when their children are young predict adolescents' adoption of smoking at 12th grade, but only when parental behavior is consistent with these attitudes.