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

“The way someone is raised seems to tell a story that is intertwined with their genetics,” said lead author Dr. Raymond Knutsen.

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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.

Methodology

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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Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.