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Appears in Collections:Economics Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Childhood self-control predicts smoking throughout life: Evidence from 21,000 cohort study participants
Author(s): Daly, Michael
Egan, Mark
Quigley, Jody
Delaney, Liam
Baumeister, Roy
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Keywords: personality
tobacco use
longitudinal research
Issue Date: Nov-2016
Date Deposited: 1-Jul-2016
Citation: Daly M, Egan M, Quigley J, Delaney L & Baumeister R (2016) Childhood self-control predicts smoking throughout life: Evidence from 21,000 cohort study participants. Health Psychology, 35 (11), pp. 1254-1263.
Abstract: Objective: Low self-control has been linked with smoking, yet it remains unclear whether childhood self-control underlies the emergence of lifetime smoking patterns. We examined the contribution of childhood self-control to early smoking initiation and smoking across adulthood.  Methods: 21,132 participants were drawn from two nationally-representative cohort studies; the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS) and the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS). Child self-control was teacher-rated at age 10 in the BCS and at ages 7 and 11 in the NCDS. Participants reported their smoking status and number of cigarettes smoked per day at five time-points in the BCS (ages 26–42) and six time-points in the NCDS (ages 23–55). Both studies controlled for socioeconomic background, cognitive ability, psychological distress, gender, and parental smoking; the NCDS also controlled for an extended set of background characteristics.  Results: Early self-control made a substantial graded contribution to (not) smoking throughout life. In adjusted regression models, a 1-SD increase in self-control predicted a 6.9 percentage point lower probability of smoking in the BCS and this was replicated in the NCDS (5.2 point reduced risk). Adolescent smoking explained over half of the association between self-control and adult smoking. Childhood self-control was positively related to smoking cessation and negatively related to smoking initiation, relapse to smoking, and the number of cigarettes smoked in adulthood.  Conclusions: This study provides strong evidence that low childhood self-control predicts an increased risk of smoking throughout adulthood and points to adolescent smoking as a key pathway through which this may occur
DOI Link: 10.1037/hea0000393
Rights: Publisher policy allows this work to be made available in this repository. Forthcoming in Health Psychology by American Psychological Association. The original publication is available at:

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