Children who are victims of violence, or even just eyewitnesses to it, experience a sort of serious damage to their DNA that is on par with aging, according to a new report in today’s L.A. Times.
A Duke University research team conducted a lengthy study on over 100 pairs of twins and determined that young children who had experienced physical abuse by an adult, had been the victim of bullying, or were even just an eyewitness to domestic violence during a certain period of their youth were all much more likely to have shorter genetic structures than children who had been raised in more peaceful environs.
The results show that kids who experience violence also experience something else: DNA damage equivalent to rapid aging.
According to the L.A. Times’ piece, the study’s big reveal was gathered by closely monitoring a child’s telomeres, which are “…strands of protective DNA that cap the tips of chromosomes inside the cell. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres get a little bit shorter. After about 50 to 60 cell divisions, the telomeres become so small that the cell begins to shut itself down.”
The result being that the more violence a child experiences, the harder the hit on his/her telomeres; the harder the hit on the telomeres the faster the symptoms of aging are brought on.
Additionally, and most startlingly, the L.A.Times article states that when it comes to the kids in the project who had experienced multiple types of violence, study leader Idan Shalev ,”… hazarded a rough estimate that these children had lost perhaps seven to 10 years of life compared with children who had more tranquil lives.”
That’s a decade of life, by someone else’s hand.
Lastly there is, of course, the long-standing correlation between poverty and violence to consider as well
“Kids who are raised in poverty and hardship have more disease,” Dr. Owen Wolkowitz, a psychiatrist at UC San Francisco, told The Times, before adding, “This might explain why.”
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