Ancestral smoking and developmental outcomes: a review of publications from a population birth cohort

Jean Golding*, Marcus Pembrey, Yasmin Iles-Caven , Sarah H Watkins, Matthew Suderman, Kate Northstone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


The adverse effects on the child of maternal smoking in pregnancy is well-recognised, but little research has been carried out on the possible non-genetic effects of ancestral smoking prior to the pregnancy including parental initiation of cigarette smoking in their own childhoods or a grandmother smoking during pregnancy. Here we summarise the studies that have been published mainly using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). We demonstrate evidence that ancestral smoking prior to or during pregnancy can often be beneficial for offspring health and both ancestor- and sex-specific. More specifically, we report evidence of (i) adverse effects of the father starting to smoke pre-puberty on his son’s development; (ii) beneficial effects on the grandson if his maternal grandmother had smoked in pregnancy; and (iii) mainly adverse effects on the granddaughter when the paternal grandmother had smoked in pregnancy. The ancestor- and sex-specificity of these results is consistent with earlier studies reporting associations of health and mortality with ancestral food supply in their parents’ and grandparents’ pre-pubertal childhoods.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberioab124
Pages (from-to)625-631
Number of pages7
JournalBiology of Reproduction
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press behalf of Society for the Study of Reproduction.

Structured keywords

  • Bristol Population Health Science Institute


  • Ancestral childhood smoking
  • Grandmaternal prenatal smoking
  • Child development
  • Sex-specific
  • Non-genetic heredity
  • Obesity
  • Anthropometry
  • Neurocognition
  • Asthma
  • Sensory development


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