Exposure to Violence Changes Children's DNA

The adage that children raised in rough households grow up fast has some fresh genetic evidence to support it, say Duke researchers who examined age markers in children's DNA.

What's the Latest Development?


The adage that children exposed to violence grow up faster has some fresh genetic evidence to support it. Examining data from a study that tracked 1,100 British families through the 1990s, researchers at Duke University have found that children exposed to two or more kinds of violence exhibited shorter telomeres, parts of our DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes and prevent them from unraveling. "They also get shorter as cells divide, meaning that the gradual loss of telomeres over time is a decent proxy for a person's actual age."

What's the Big Idea?

Children who grow up in stressful home environments age faster than children reared by well-adjusted families. That means they are put at earlier risk for developing age-related diseases like heart disease, diabetes and dementia. The link between violence, telomere loss and age-related disease led Duke psychology professor Terrie Moffitt to conclude that early action is the key to preventing serious disease. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," said Moffitt. "Some of the billions of dollars spent on diseases of aging...might be better invested in protecting children from harm."

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

Videos
  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less
Image source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Though we know today that his policies eventually ended the Great Depression, FDR's election was seen as disastrous by some.
  • A group of wealthy bankers decided to take things into their own hands; they plotted a coup against FDR, hoping to install a fascist dictator in its stead.
  • Ultimately, the coup was brought to light by General Smedley Butler and squashed before it could get off the ground.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less