Violence may shorten a child's life
- From: Lance <lancegary@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2012 12:52:37 -0700 (PDT)
Violence ages children's DNA, shortens their chromosomes
By Liz Szabo, USA TODAY
.....Study finds that exposure to violence can cause changes in DNA
leading to seven to 10 years of premature aging.
In fact, a new study suggests that violence leaves long-term scars on
children's bodies - not just in bruises on the skin, but also altering
their DNA, causing changes that are equivalent to seven to 10 years of
Scientists measured this cellular aging by studying the ends of
children's chromosomes, called telomeres, according to Idan Shalev,
lead author of a study in today's Molecular Psychiatry.
Telomeres are special DNA sequences that act like the plastic tips on
shoelaces, which prevent the DNA in chromosomes from unraveling. They
get shorter each time a cell divides, until a cell can't divide
anymore and it dies....
In this study, 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.
Researchers measured the children's telomeres â€” in cells obtained by
swabbing the insides of their cheeks â€” at ages 5 and 10.
Telomeres shortened faster in kids exposed to two or more types of
violence, says Shalev, a post-doctoral researcher at the Duke
Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy in Durham, N.C. Unless that
pattern changes, the study suggests, these kids could be expected to
develop diseases of aging, such as heart attacks or memory loss, seven
to 10 years earlier than their peers....
The study confirms a small-but-growing number of studies suggesting
that early childhood adversity imprints itself in our chromosomes,
says Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at
Harvard Medical School.
In a 2011 study, Nelson and colleagues found shorter telomeres in
Romanian children who had spent more time in institutions, compared
with children sent to foster care.
Molecular Psychiatry , (24 April 2012) | doi:10.1038/mp.2012.32
Exposure to violence during childhood is associated with telomere
erosion from 5 to 10 years of age: a longitudinal study
I Shalev, T E Moffitt, K Sugden, B Williams, R M Houts, A Danese, J
Mill, L Arseneault and A Caspi
There is increasing interest in discovering mechanisms that mediate
the effects of childhood stress on late-life disease morbidity and
mortality. Previous studies have suggested one potential mechanism
linking stress to cellular aging, disease and mortality in humans:
telomere erosion. We examined telomere erosion in relation to
children's exposure to violence, a salient early-life stressor, which
has known long-term consequences for well-being and is a major public-
health and social-welfare problem. In the first prospective-
longitudinal study with repeated telomere measurements in children
while they experienced stress, we tested the hypothesis that childhood
violence exposure would accelerate telomere erosion from age 5 to age
10 years. Violence was assessed as exposure to maternal domestic
violence, frequent bullying victimization and physical maltreatment by
an adult. Participants were 236 children (49% females; 42% with one or
more violence exposures) recruited from the Environmental-Risk
Longitudinal Twin Study, a nationally representative 1994â€“1995 birth
cohort. ....Compared with their counterparts, the children who
experienced two or more kinds of violence exposure showed
significantly more telomere erosion between age-5 baseline and age-10
follow-up measurements, even after adjusting for sex, socioeconomic
status and body mass index (B=-0.052, s.e.=0.021, P=0.015). This
finding provides support for a mechanism linking cumulative childhood
stress to telomere maintenance, observed already at a young age, with
potential impact for life-long health.
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