Summary: Unsupportive parenting and early life stress can lead to premature aging and associated health risks in children. Researchers say adults who faced early life stress had shorter telomeres than their peers who did not.
Source: Loma Linda University Health
New research out of Loma Linda University Health suggests that unsupportive parenting styles may have several negative health implications for children, even into their adult years.
The study found that the telomeres — protective caps on the ends of the strands of DNA — of subjects who considered their mothers’ parenting style as “cold” were on average 25% smaller compared to those who reported having a mother whose parenting style they considered “warm.”
Research has found that early-life stress is associated with shorter telomeres, a measurable biomarker of accelerated cellular aging and increased disease risk later in life.
“Telomeres have been called a genetic clock, but we now know that as early life stress increases, telomeres shorten and the risk of a host of diseases increases, as well as premature death,” said Raymond Knutsen, MD, MPH, lead author of the study and associate professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health. “We know that each time a cell divides, the telomeres shorten, which shortens its lifespan.”
Interestingly, mutations in genes maintaining telomeres cause a group of rare diseases resembling premature aging.
“However, we know that some cells in the body produce an enzyme called telomerase, which can rebuild these telomeres,” Knutsen said.
Released earlier this month, the study, “Cold parenting is associated with cellular aging in offspring: A retrospective study,” uses data from 200 subjects who participated in two prospective cohort studies of Seventh-day Adventist men and women: the Adventist Health Study-1 (AHS-1) with 34,000 Californians in 1976 and AHS-2 with 96,000 subjects from the United States and Canada in 2002-2007.
The research takes a closer look at the impact parenting style has on telomere succession. “The way someone is raised seems to tell a story that is intertwined with their genetics,” Knutsen said.
The study also examined the impact education and body mass index (BMI) may have on the association between cold parenting and telomere length.
“The association with parenting style was greatest among those with less education, and those who stayed overweight/obese or put on weight during follow-up, suggesting both higher education and normal BMI may provide some resilience against cold parenting and cellular aging,” the study stated.
About this neuroscience research article
Source: Loma Linda University Health Media Contacts: Janelle Ringer – Loma Linda University Health Image Source: The image is in the public domain.
Cold parenting is associated with cellular aging in offspring: A retrospective study
Background Early life stress is a known risk factor for diseases and premature death. We tested whether parenting style impacts telomere length (TL), a cellular aging biomarker.
Methods Information on parents’ style of parenting was obtained from 199 participants in the Adventist Health Study-1 (AHS-1) who 27+ years later also enrolled in the AHS-2 where blood was collected for relative TL (rTL) assessment.
Results Subjects describing their mothers’ parenting style as cold had on average 25% smaller rTL compared to subjects not reporting a cold mother (1.89 vs 2.53). This association was greatest among those with less education, and those who stayed overweight/obese or put on weight during follow-up.
Conclusions These results support previous findings that early life stress may have health implications by promoting cellular aging, and expands these stressors to include cold parenting during an individuals’ formative years. Higher education and normal weight seem to provide some resilience.