Exposure to violence may cause kids to age faster

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Post Aug. 17, 2020

Exposure to violence may cause kids to age faster

Youngsters who experience violence or trauma may age faster and may go through puberty earlier than counterparts who do not, according to results of more than 50 studies analyzed by a team of researchers at Harvard, and Stanford universities and the University of Washington.

Writing in the Psychological Bulletin of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Katie McLaughlin said that a growing body of work suggests that early adversity – such as exposure to violence or trauma – can become “biologically embedded” with the potential for adverse health effects later in life.

Analyzing results from 54 studies looking at the impact of two forms of adversity on the onset of puberty and aging markers in cells, the research team found that children who had experienced violence or trauma, but not deprivation, showed accelerated aging compared with those who had not.

Statistics across the different studies varied, but researchers found that repeated exposure to violence appears to be linked to girls experiencing menarche up to several months earlier than their peers. That may be important because earlier puberty has been linked to mental and physical health problems later, researchers said.

In the case of cellular aging, children who experienced violence or trauma appeared to be months or even years older than they really were.

The finding is significant because studies in adults suggest faster biological ageing at the cellular level is associated with increased risk of a variety of conditions including cancer, diabetes  and  cardiovascular disease, the team said.

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