Unsupportive Parents Linked To Premature Aging And Increased Sickness In Kids

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This should come as no surprise, but the way you parent your child affects their health forever. And that's not just talking about how you feed them or if they exercise. But the way you treat them as well. New research shows that unsupportive parenting practices will have a negative affect on kid's overall health. And the health implications can reach past childhood, extending into adulthood.

The study was conducted by researchers from Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center. Research found that the telomeres, protective caps at the end of DNA strands are shorter for people who described their mothers' parenting style as "cold." On average, the telomeres were 25 percent shorter than people who described their mothers as having a "warm" parenting style. Additionally, the research finds the shorter telomeres are associated with early life stress.

And what are telomeres exactly? They are biomarkers that can be measured to show accelerated cellular aging. These are also indicators of an increased risk of disease 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," says lead author of the study, Raymond Knutsen, MD, MPH. Knutsen is also an associate professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health. He adds that "each time a cell divides, the telomeres shorten, which shortens its lifespan."

For the study, data from 200 people were used. These people participated in two different studies of men and women who are Seventh-Day Adventists. The first study was done with 34,000 people from California in 1976. And the second was done with 96,000 people from the United States and Canada between 2002 and 2007. It's main focus was to show the way parenting styles affect the body, specifically the telomeres.

"The way someone is raised seems to tell a story that is intertwined with their genetics," Knutsen notes. Ultimately that makes a lot of sense. We do tend to internalize the way we're treated, and over time, that will affect our bodies.

However, they did find one interesting thing that we may not have considered. Education and body mass index (BMI) also have an impact on the association between "cold" parenting and shortened telomeres.

According to the study's notes: "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."

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