Using longitudinal data from the multigenerational Youth Development Study (YDS), this article documents how parents’ long-term smoking trajectories are associated with adolescent children’s likelihood of smoking. Prospective data from the parents (from age 14–38 years) enable unique comparisons of the parents’ and children’s smoking behavior, as well as that of siblings.
Smoking trajectories are constructed using latent class analysis for the original YDS cohort (n = 1010). Multigenerational longitudinal data from 214 parents and 314 offspring ages 11 years and older are then analyzed by using logistic regression with cluster-corrected SEs.
Four latent smoking trajectories emerged among the original cohort: stable nonsmokers (54%), early-onset light smokers who quit/reduce (16%), late-onset persistent smokers (14%), and early-onset persistent heavy smokers (16%). Although 8% of children of stable nonsmokers smoked in the last year, the other groups’ children had much higher percentages, ranging from 23% to 29%. Multivariate logistic regression models confirm that these significant differences were robust to the inclusion of myriad child- and parent-level measures (for which child age and grade point average [GPA] are significant predictors). Older sibling smoking, however, mediated the link between parental heavy smoking and child smoking.
Even in an era of declining rates of teenage cigarette use in the United States, children of current and former smokers face an elevated risk of smoking. Prevention efforts to weaken intergenerational associations should consider parents’ long-term cigarette use, as well as the smoking behavior of older siblings in the household.