Study finds having a cold, aloof mothers can damage your health long into adulthood

If your mother was cold and distant, she could have done real damage to you – not just emotionally, but at the genetic level.

Researchers from Loma Linda University have found that a chilly, unsupportive parenting style from mothers result can result in premature aging and increased risk for disease later in life.

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“The way someone is raised seems to tell a story that is intertwined with their genetics,” said lead author Dr. Raymond Knutsen, an associate professor for the university, in a release.

The answer lies in the telomeres – the protective cap at the end of DNA strings. People who describe their mothers’ way of parenting as “cold” were found to have shorter telomeres.

“Telomere have been called a genetic clock, but we now know that as early life stress increases, telomeres shorten and the risk of a host of diseases increases, as well as premature death,” said Knutsen.

“As early life stress increases, telomere shorten and the risk of a host of diseases increases, as well as premature death,” he added.


For the study, Knutsen and his colleagues used data from 199 people who participated in two studies of Seventh-Day Adventist men and women in the U.S. and Canada between 2002-2007.

Using measurements of subject’s telomeres and data about their childhood, researchers found that those who reported having aloof, distant, and cold mothers had telomeres that measured about 25% shorter than people with “warm” mothers.

There were a few things that seemed to provide protection against a less-than-welcoming upbringing, however. The study suggested that “both higher education and normal BMI may provide some resilience against cold parenting and cellular aging.”

A father’s parenting style was not significant enough to make an impact on telomere length, researchers said.

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