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In utero, fetuses can be exposed to levels of nicotine that are up to 15% higher than the levels consumed by their mothers. Nicotine exposure during gestation can lead to developmental complications, including spontaneous abortions, reduced uterine blood flow, and deficits in auditory processing. Studies also report a negative association between maternal prenatal urine cotinine (a metabolite of nicotine and a reliable biomarker) and infant motor development. Furthermore, past research illustrates that developmental outcomes may differ based on the infant's sex. In the current study, we predicted mothers with higher cotinine levels would have infants with significant deficits in motor development. Specifically, we expected female infants with higher prenatal cotinine exposures to have more substantial reductions in motor development at 6 months of age. This sample consisted of 72 African American mother-infant pairs living in Atlanta, Georgia. Motor, cognitive, language, and social-emotional development were measured using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Third Edition. Maternal serum cotinine samples were assayed at two points during pregnancy. Regression analyses were performed, using infant sex as a moderator. These tests showed that cotinine levels were not significantly correlated with motor development in boys or girls at 6 months of age. Conversely, an additional, exploratory analysis indicated a significant, negative association between cotinine levels and receptive communication scores; a relationship that was more prominent in male infants. Receptive communication refers to one’s ability to correctly interpret auditory information. Although motor development was not found to be a significant outcome, prenatal maternal smoking may be adversely impacting language development via this method of auditory processing. Future research should investigate the implications of nicotine exposure on the acquisition of language. Our hope is that this data will be utilized to create more robust prevention methods for populations susceptible to environmental toxicants.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
19 Jul 2022
1.04 MB



  • Event location
    • Cleveland Ballroom

  • Event date
    • 2 November 2019

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022