Parents’ stress affects children’s genes
One would assume that children are affected by their parents’ stress. But a fascinating new study shows that parents’ stress actually forms an imprint on children’s genes, and the effects last a very long time.
I won’t pretend to understand all of the science involved here, but basically, the study deals with gene expression. The scientists measured chemical groups that attach to parts of the DNA, acting like dimmers on gene function.
The parents in the study were asked to report their stress levels, including depression, family-expressed anger, parenting stress and financial stress. It turns out that parental stress during a child’s early years leaves an imprint on the child’s genes that can be read even a decade later.
One interesting point is that the stress of mothers was most upsetting to infants, whereas the stress of fathers was more detrimental to toddlers. Something to keep in mind if you have children in these age groups or supervise workers who do.
The researchers also found that a father’s stress level more strongly impacted the gene expression in daughters while a mother’s stress level had a similar affect on both sons and daughters.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia and the Child & Family Research Institute. Another bit of scientific evidence to back up what we all know deep down. Children benefit from stable, happy parents, and parents’ stress can actually affect the whole family.