Hey, Parents, Chill Out – Your Stress Alters Your Kids’ Genes
As if we weren’t already stressed out enough, parents now have another thing to obsess over: stress. A new study shows parents’ stress levels leave an imprint on their children’s genes that lasts into adolescence and potentially longer, reports The Vancouver Sun.
It’s not exactly rocket science that a parent’s stress and anxiety levels would have a profound effect on their children. What’s interesting here, though, is that it influences the way genes function. Researchers at the University of British Columbia examined cheek cell DNA from 109 adolescents and compared it to DNA from when the teens were just infants. At the time, their parents were asked to report on their stress levels (including things like depression and financial worries).
The article explains how researchers examined the genes and looked for patters in methylation (chemical compounds that attach to parts of DNA and alter gene function). Teens whose mothers reported higher stress during infancy had similar methylation patterns, which means their anxiety levels and brain developments were affected by their mother’s own stress and anxiety levels.
What likely won’t surprise most people is that a mother’s stress affects teens more than a father’s. Also, a mother’s stress has an equal effect on both boys and girls, while a father’s stress level impacts daughters more.
“What this study shows is that early life experiences leave an imprint, positive or negative,” lead researcher Michael S. Kobor told The Vancouver Sun. “It shows once again that it’s better to take a developmental perspective in things like disease and addiction . . . rather than assuming we can fix the issues in adolescence or later in life.”