Children Age Faster When Exposed to Violence

Health & Wellness on 04.25.12
Contributor bio | twitter

Photo: mrsraggle/Creative Commons

From signs that bullies may be targeting your child through keeping kids safe from guns to violence in fairy tales, any discussion of parenting must sadly include the discussion of violence. But while we know that exposure to violence - including parental spanking - can negatively impact children's behavior and emotional well-being, what I hadn't realized is that it can literally change a child's DNA too.

USA Today reports on new research showing that children exposed to violence actually physically age faster than their peers:

...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 premature aging. 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.

From domestic violence through maltreatment by adults to bullying, the results showed that kids exposed to violence developed shorter telomeres - something that also happens when people smoke, or are subjected to psychological stress.

Researchers suggested that good exercise, nutrition and stress reduction may help reverse some of the negative impacts, but the best cure is clearly to avoid exposure to violence in the first place and to reduce instances of violence in our culture.

As if we needed any more reasons to live in peace...

Top Articles on Children and Violence
It's Official: Spanking Makes Kids Badly Behaved, More Aggressive
5 Ways to Stop Our Kids from Shooting Each Other
London's Rioting Kids: Who Is Responsible?