Attention “Deficits?″

Mothers always seem to feel a special responsibility for their children – and new research seems to offer yet another reason to worry.

A new study, which appears in the July issue of Epidemiology, claims to have found a connection between misbehaving children – and the cell phone usage patterns of their mothers.

After the researchers adjusted for factors that could influence the results, such as a mother’s psychiatric problems and socioeconomic factors, children with both prenatal and postnatal cell phone exposure were 80% more likely to have abnormal or borderline scores on tests evaluating emotional problems, conduct problems, hyperactivity, or problems with peers, according to Reuters.

Risks were higher for children exposed prenatally only, compared with those exposed only postnatally, but were lower than for children exposed at both time points, according to the report.

The finding “certainly shouldn’t be over interpreted, but nevertheless points in a direction where further research is needed,” Dr. Leeka Kheifets of the UCLA School of Public Health, who helped conduct the study, told Reuters Health.

Now, the researchers acknowledge that a fetus’s exposure to radiofrequency fields by a mother’s cell phone use is likely very small (though they cite other research that finds that children who use cell phones are exposed to more radiofrequency energy than adults – because their ears and brains are smaller). Nor can we attribute the behavioral issues in the children in this study to their own cell phone usage. While about a third of the children included were (already) using a cell phone, just 1% used it for more than an hour a week.

Specifically, Kheifets and her team looked at a group of 13,159 children whose mothers had been recruited to participate in the Danish National Birth Cohort study early in their pregnancies. When the children reached age 7, mothers were asked to complete a questionnaire about their children’s behavior and health, as well as the mother’s own cell phone use in pregnancy and the child’s use of cell phones.

Alternative Explanations

There are, of course, alternative explanations for the findings. The researchers noted that mothers who used cell phones frequently were of lower socio-occupational status, more likely to have mental health and psychiatric problems, and more likely to have smoked while they were pregnant – all of which have been linked to post-natal problems in other research.

More controversially, the researchers note that the misbehavior could be a consequence of the “lack of attention given to a child by mothers who are frequent users of cell phones.’

Not noted as a possible explanation is the fact that the findings were based on the mothers’ evaluation of their children’s behaviors, and their assessment of their own cell phone usage.

Consequently, it seems entirely possible that the “findings’ may just be a case of “guilty’ parenting.

The paper is online HERE