Scientists say the “terrible twos” are even more terrible if Mom smoked while she was pregnant. A psychiatrist has found that 2-year-olds who were regularly exposed to cigarette smoke in utero were nearly 12 times more likely to show clinical levels of behavior problems compared to toddlers who were not exposed.

Psychiatrist Lauren Wakschlag evaluated 93 children between their first and second birthdays. Forty-four of them were exposed to cigarette smoke before birth, and among those exposed, nearly half of their mothers reported smoking more than half a pack a day. The behaviors of exposed and non-exposed toddlers were compared.

According to Wakschlag, toddlers prenatally exposed to cigarette smoke showed markedly different behavior patterns. Although many toddlers exhibit mild behavioral problems during this period, known as the “terrible twos,” the behavior problems of exposed toddlers significantly increased between 18 and 24 months of age compared to the milder, more stable patterns of non-exposed toddlers.

The men who fought in World War II almost all returned as smokers, since cigarette manufacturers gave out free packs to soldiers. When they got home, they often found their girl friends and wives had become smokers as well. It was around this time that the phrase “terrible twos” was coined. It’s unlikely that this is a coincidence.

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