Vol. 8, No. 2, 2002 Page 6


The latest issue of Crime Times describes a paper by Patricia Brennan et al. about the link between maternal smoking and delinquent behavior. The paper asserts that "animal studies link prenatal nicotine exposure to elevated levels of testosterone in males." [This conclusion is] wrong. {Studies show that] prenatal nicotine feminizes male rats.

Bernard Weiss, Ph.D.

Dr. Brennan responds: I thank Dr. Weiss for pointing out my interpretational error concerning the relationship between testosterone and prenatal nicotine exposure in rats. In our recent article in the American Journal of Psychiatry, we discussed several competing explanations for our finding that maternal smoking during pregnancy is related to criminal offending in male offspring (Brennan, Grekin, Mortensen & Mednick, 2002). Clearly a simple mediational model where nicotine exposure leads to increased testosterone, which leads to increased aggression, is not supported by the animal literature. As we reported in our paper, it is likely that a complex array of factors, including genetic influences, parenting influences, and/or hormonal influences might mediate the maternal smoking/offspring crime relationship, and future research will have to bear this out. Interestingly, a recent article has indicated that maternal smoking during pregnancy is positively correlated with maternal testosterone during pregnancy, which in turn has a direct positive effect on cigarette smoking in adolescent daughters (Kandel & Udry, 1999). As this article suggests, the relationship between maternal smoking during pregnancy, hormonal systems, and behavioral problems in offspring will likely prove to be complex, and is certainly worthy of further study in both human and animal populations.

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