Violence and bullying alters children’s DNA, linked to premature aging. Photo via svilen001 at SXC Photo
According to a study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, children exposed to violence or bullying early in life may experience premature aging. The study conclues that exposure to these stressful situations may alter DNA and produce cellular changes that is the equivelent of seven to ten years of premature aging.
The Atlanta Journal reports that the study’s authors focused on telomeres, or tiny strips of genetic material that look like tails on the ends of our chromosomes (think of a cap on an end of a shoelace), to see whether youth violence affects vulnerability to aging. Telomere shortening is an indicator of cell aging.
According to the Detriot Free Press, researchers examined whether exposure to violence could make children’s telomeres shorten faster than normal. They interviewed the mothers of 236 children at ages 5, 7 and 10, asking whether the youngsters had been exposed to domestic violence between the mother and her partner; physical maltreatment by an adult; or bullying.
The researchers compared lengths of telomeres from DNA samples swabbed from children’s cheeks at age 5 and age 10, and found that children with a history of two or more kinds of violent experiences have significantly more telomere erosion in those five years compared to other children, reports Medical Daily.
Additonally, Medical Daily reports that it is still unclear at this time how cumulative stress can cause telomere shortening, but researchers suggest that inflammation, an immune response to stress, may play a role in telomere erosion.
Study leader Idan Shalev, a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University, told LiveScience that if the cellular aging isn’t reversed the children would likely be at risk for premature death, however he expressed hope that telomere shortening can be halted. He went on to say that a healthy diet, physical activity and even meditation are associated with longer telomeres. LiveScience additionally reports that the researchers plan to follow up with their study participants, who are now 18.
The views, opinions and information expressed in articles and blog posts published on imperfectparent.com and all subdomains are those of the authors alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Imperfect Parent or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of any entity of, or affiliated with, Imperfect Parent. The Imperfect Parent
is designed for entertainment
purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for medical, health,
legal, or financial advice from a professional.
of material from any of Imperfect Parent's pages without written
permission is strictly prohibited.