Maternal prenatal smoking, birth weight and sociodemographic factors were investigated in relation to cognitive abilities of 1544 children (aged 3.5 years) participating in the Québec Longitudinal Study of Children's Development. The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) was used to assess verbal ability, the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Revised (WPPSI-R) block design test to assess visuospatial ability, and the Visually Cued Recall (VCR) task to assess short-term memory. Prenatal smoking was related to performance on the WPPSI-R, the PPVT, and the VCR, although it did not independently predict any cognitive ability after maternal education was taken into account. Birth weight was a more robust predictor of all outcome measures and independently predicted VCR-performance. Birth weight interacted significantly with family income and maternal education in predicting visuospatial ability, indicating a greater influence of birth weight under relatively poor socio-economic conditions. Parenting and family functioning mediated associations between maternal education/family income and cognitive task performance under different birth weight conditions, although there were indications for stronger effects under relatively low birth weight. We conclude that investigations of moderating and mediating effects can provide insights into which children are most at risk of cognitive impairment and might benefit most from interventions.
- Birth weight