Do you smoke at home in front of your child? Better stop now. New research shows that children who are exposed to tobacco smoke at home at early stages of their childhood are highly likely to adopt antisocial behavior toward others, engage in proactive and reactive aggression, have conduct problems at school, and drop out at age 12, Eureka Alert reports.

Lead author Professor Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal's School of Psycho-Education said, "Young children have little control over their exposure to household tobacco smoke, which is considered toxic to the brain at a time when its development is exponential.

The detection of early environmental factors that influence later child well-being represents an important target for individual and community health. Parents who smoke near where their children live and play often inadvertently expose them to second and third hand smoke. It was already known that environmental smoke places children at risk of short- and long-term health problems. However, now for the first time, we have compelling evidence which suggests other dangers to developing brain systems that govern behavioral decisions, social and emotional life, and cognitive functioning," Pagani said in an article by Science Daily.

The study thoroughly examined the data from a longitudinal birth cohort of Quebec boys and girls born in 1997 and 1998. The Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development, a public database by the Institut de la statistique du Québec, checked every year whether anyone from the parents of 1,035 children involved in the study smoked at home when their children were 1.5 to 7.5 years old. At 12, their children self-reported their antisocial behavior and academic characteristics. Overall, 60 percent of families reported never being exposed to tobacco smoke, while 27 percent reported intermittent exposure, and 13 percent reported chronic exposure.

Pagani and her team looked into the data to determine whether early household smoke exposure and later signs of child deviance are connected while eliminating the influence of various other conflicting factors, such as exposure to tobacco smoke, drugs, and alcohol during pregnancy, and other parental and family characteristics.

Animal studies have also implied that exposure to tobacco smoke is dangerous to the developing brain at a time when it is most vulnerable to environment input.

"These long-term associations should encourage policy-makers and public health professionals to raise awareness among parents about the developmental risks of second hand smoke exposure. In addition, schools could incorporate this knowledge into curricula at all grade levels in an effort to prevent further exposure to neurotoxins," Pagani concluded.