This study focuses on signs of early childhood misbehavior that might be linked to risk of becoming tobacco dependent. Standardized teacher ratings of misbehavior were obtained for an epidemiological sample of first graders entering an urban mid-Atlantic public school system in 1985 and 1986. Fifteen years later, 1,692 were re-assessed (75% of the original sample). As adults, 962 indicated they had tried tobacco at least once; 66% of the 962 had become daily users. Latent class analysis of the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence items gave evidence of three classes pertinent to the tobacco dependence syndrome in smokers by young adulthood: one non-dependent class of smokers (50% of smokers), a class of smokers experiencing a moderate number of dependence features (31%), and a third class more severely affected (19%), as manifest in needing to smoke right after waking, and smoking when ill. With or without covariate adjustments, higher levels of teacher-rated childhood misbehavior at entry to primary school are associated with modestly excess risk of becoming tobacco dependent by young adulthood (risk ratio = 1.6, 95% CI: 1.1, 2.5). Interventions that seek to improve childhood misbehavior might reduce early onset tobacco smoking and risk of tobacco dependence among smokers.
Keywords: behaviors, cohort study, longitudinal studies, risk, smoking, tobacco dependence