A longitudinal study predicting patterns of cigarette smoking in late childhood
Early initiation of cigarette smoking so strongly predicts future smoking that several investigators have advocated delaying the age of initiation as a prevention strategy. To complement retrospective studies of early initiation, this study assessed prospectively patterns of smoking behavior in a sample of401 children who were surveyed in the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades. The principal findings were (1) modeling of smoking by parents and friends is sufficient to influence children to initiate smoking, particularly when children also have low behavioral self-control, and (2) when modeling occurs in combination with poor adjustment to school, low parental monitoring, easy access to cigarettes, and other risk attributes, early initiators are significantly more likely to continue smoking. The results suggest that delaying initiation of smoking without also modifying child attributes and socialization factors that predict early initiation and persistent smoking is unlikely to reduce the proportion of children who become habitual smokers.