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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Gender differences in the association between pre-adolescent smoking initiation and emotional or behavioural problems

Gea de Meer12*, Matty R Crone3 and Sijmen A Reijneveld23

Author Affiliations

1 Municipal Health Service Fryslân, Leeuwarden, the Netherlands

2 Department of Health Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands

3 TNO (Netherlands Organisation of Applied Scientific Research), Quality of Life, Leiden, the Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:615  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-615

Published: 18 October 2010



Emotional and behavioural problems are a risk factor for the initiation of smoking. In this study, we aimed to assess this relationship beyond clinical cut-off values of problem behaviour.


Cross-sectional national survey among 9-13 year old children with data on smoking and Childhood Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) (N = 960). Relationships between smoking and tertiles of CBCL-scores were assessed.


Smoking was reported by 5.9% of the children (7.1% boys and 5.0% girls, P > 0.100). Relationships between smoking and problem behaviour were present in girls, but ot in boys. Among girls, smoking was associated with attention problems, thought problems, and delinquent behaviour. For attention problems and delinquent behaviour the associations were limited to the CBCL-scores in the uppermost 16% which agrees with the subclinical cut-off value.


Pre-adolescent girls more frequently smoke if having attention problems, delinquent behaviour, or thought problems.