The sins of the father…and the mother.

Mother and childOf the father…

A recent study has shown that the sons (and the daughters), may pay for the sins of the parents after all…at the genetic level, that is. In a recent study, researchers studied two groups of families. The first group had a low yearly income, and the second group had a high yearly income. Income was chosen as a criterion because it is usually associated with other lifestyle choices of the parents. In this case, fathers in the low income group were more often cigarette smokers than fathers in the high income group. The researchers found that genetic mutations occurred more frequently in the low income group when the father was a smoker, and that the mutations dose-dependently increased when the father smoked in the six months before pregnancy.[1]

Gene mutations caused by a father’s lifestyle can be passed on to his children, even if those mutations occurred before conception. Additionally, these mutations in the germ-line are present in all cells of the children, including their own reproductive cells. Put simply, the lifestyle choices a father makes has the potential to affect the DNA of multiple generations and not just his immediate children.

And the mother…

Changes in the mothers DNA caused by smoking affect the reproductive cells, potentially damaging the DNA contained within that will be passed onto the next generation. In addition to this, researchers have found that nicotine can have serious and irreversible effects on the foetus’ brain. This may range from spontaneous abortion during first trimester, to episodes of conduct disorder, poor performance at school and social isolation. Of course, there are already recognised risks such as ‘small for gestational age’ and the obvious toxin exposure from cigarette smoke. A lack of maternal-foetal attachment has also been recorded for mothers who continued to smoke during pregnancy and following the birth.[2]

There are those (both mothers and fathers) who still ignore the warnings and continue to smoke whilst pregnant. This puts everyone at a disadvantage, as the whole family is subjected to the dangerous effects of smoking, whether it be the smoker themselves, through second hand smoke, or in the passing of toxic chemicals through the placenta .

Yes, your choices don’t just affect you; if you choose to have children they may impact many generations to come.


[1] Linschooten, J.O. Paternal lifestyle as a potential source of germline mutations transmitted to offspring. FASEB J. 2013 Jul;27(7):2873-9 
[2] Maqee, S.R. The relationship between maternal-fetal attachment and cigarette smoking over pregnancy. Matern Child Health J. 2013 Jul 28