Children under the age of 3 are the most vulnerable to the side effects that are connected to poverty, family and financial instability and abuse. A team of researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital founds that kids have "epigenetic profiles," which are also known as chemical tags that alter gene expressions. These profiles also carry consequences for future mental health issues, especially when young children may experience a life-altering event or some sort of instability early in their lives. The study was published in the medical journal, Biological Psychiatry.
Erin Dunn, ScD, MPH, of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit in the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine, who worked as a correspondent for the report, says that the team looked at how children deal with stress both early and later on in their lives. She says that the research looked at how children experience stress and what kind of impact this might have on them once they reach their adult years.
Dunn said, “These findings suggest that the first three years of life may be an especially important period for shaping biological processes that ultimately give rise to mental health conditions. If these results are replicated, they imply that prioritizing policies and interventions to children who experienced adversity during those years may help reduce the long-term risk for problems like depression."
Research conducted both in animals and humans found that those who experience adverse experiences early in their lives usually carry these moments with them through adulthood. It can have lasting effects on what health professionals call epigenetics, a process where chemical tags are added to a DNA sequence that controls whether or not a gene is expressed. During this particular study, the researchers looked at the differences in DNA methylation, which can either silence or enhance a person’s expression.
The study said that adversity before the age of 3 had a significant impact on kids more so than children that experiences certain disadvantages from the ages of 3 to 5.
The report noted that some of the negative experiences that children remember and carry with them into adulthood include abuse by either a parent or a caregiver, a mother’s mental illness, living in a single-adult household, familiar instability or financial stress and living in a neighborhood was considered below the poverty line.