TUESDAY, July 30 (HealthDay News) -- Poor children are more
likely than their wealthier counterparts to smoke cigarettes, but
less likely to binge drink and no more likely to use marijuana, a
new study reveals.
The Duke University researchers also found that economic
struggles early in life -- such as family worries about paying
bills or having to sell possessions for cash -- can reduce a
child's self-control, even if they receive strong parenting during
their teen years.
"Poverty during childhood not only appears to affect child
development, but can have lasting effects on the types of health
choices made during adolescence and early adulthood, especially as
it relates to cigarette smoking," study senior author Bernard
Fuemmeler, an associate professor in community and family medicine,
said in a Duke news release.
"Economic strains may shape an individual's capacity for
self-control by diminishing opportunities for self-regulation, or
affecting important brain structures," he suggested.
The study authors analyzed data collected from 1,285 children
and caregivers in the United States between 1986 and 2009. Older
teens and young adults who were poor in childhood were far more
likely to become regular cigarette smokers than those who grew up
in better-off households.
The participants who were poor in childhood also scored low on
self-control measures, the investigators found.
"Poor self-control may be a product of limited learning
resources and opportunities for developing appropriate behaviors,"
Binge drinking, generally defined as having four to five
alcoholic drinks in a row, was much more common among those who
grew up in wealthier homes, the findings showed. Economic status
during childhood did not appear to influence whether kids smoked
pot. However, positive parenting was linked to a reduced risk of
In general, all young people whose parents were nurturing and
accepting were less likely to smoke, drink or use marijuana,
according to the study published July 30 in the
Journal of Pediatric Psychology.
The findings challenge common beliefs about what leads to
substance abuse, and may shed light on better approaches to help
prevent young people from becoming drug and alcohol addicts, the
researchers noted in the news release.
"We suspected we'd find a relationship between parenting and
economic problems -- the idea that economic strains may cause
parents to have less capacity to deal with their children, but that
relationship wasn't there," Fuemmeler said. "That means it's not
necessarily poverty that affects the parenting strategy, but
poverty that affects the children's self-control."
The Nemours Foundation has more about
kids and smoking.