Intolerance of loud sounds in childhood: Is there an intergenerational association with grandmaternal smoking in pregnancy?

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Recent research using the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) demonstrated an association between maternal grandmother smoking in pregnancy and the autistic traits of impaired social communication and repetitive behaviour in granddaughters but not grandsons, but of paternal grandmother smoking and early development of myopia in the grandchild. Here we investigate whether grandmaternal smoking in pregnancy is associated with intolerance to loud sounds. ALSPAC collected information during the index pregnancy from the study parents on the smoking habits, social and other features of their own parents. Maternal report when the child was aged 6 and 13 included hating loud sounds; at age 11 the child was tested for volume preference for listening to music through headphones. Statistical analysis compared results for grandchildren in relation to whether a parent had been exposed in utero to maternal smoking, adjusted for their grandparents’ social and demographic attributes. We hypothesised that there would be sex differences in the effects of grandmaternal prenatal smoking, based on previous intergenerational studies. For 6-year-old children maternal report of intolerance to loud noise was more likely in grandsons if the maternal grandmother had smoked [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 1.27; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03,1.56; P = 0.025], but less likely in girls [AOR 0.82; 95%CI 0.63,1.07] Pinteraction <0.05. If the paternal grandmother had smoked the grandchildren were less likely to be intolerant, especially girls. The objective measure of choice of volume for music through headphones showed that grandsons of both maternal and paternal smoking grandmothers were less likely to choose high volumes compared with granddaughters (P<0.05). In line with our prior hypothesis of sex differences, we showed that grandsons were more intolerant of loud sounds than granddaughters particularly at age 6, and this was confirmed by objective measures at age 11.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0229323
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2020

Structured keywords

  • Bristol Population Health Science Institute


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