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Beware: Unsupportive or cold parenting can lead to premature ageing, health risks in kids

Irrespective of geographical location and the financial status of parents, all children need some basic things from their parents. @Shutterstock

Early-life stress is associated with shorter telomeres, a measurable biomarker of accelerated cellular aging and increased disease risk later in life.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Updated : September 11, 2020 9:41 AM IST

How you raise your child can have a lasting impact on his or her long-term health. There are many parenting styles. Some are also fads that last just for a few years. But overall, not all parenting styles are beneficial for children. As parent, you need to find a balance in how you raise your child instead of blindly following a particular style of parenting.

A study at Loma Linda University Health suggests that unsupportive parenting styles may have several negative health implications for children, even into their adult years. The study found that the telomeres -- protective caps on the ends of the strands of DNA -- of subjects who considered their mothers' parenting style as "cold" were on average 25 per cent smaller compared to those who reported having a mother whose parenting style they considered "warm."

Early life stress causes shorter telomere

Research has found that early-life stress is associated with shorter telomeres, a measurable biomarker of accelerated cellular aging and increased disease risk later in life. According to researchers, telomeres are a genetic clock, but now it is also known that as early life stress increases, telomeres shorten and the risk of a host of diseases increases, as well as premature death. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres shorten, which shortens its lifespan. Interestingly, mutations in genes maintaining telomeres cause a group of rare diseases resembling premature aging. However, some cells in the body produce an enzyme called telomerase, which can rebuild these telomeres.

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BMI too has a link with telomere length

The study, titled "Cold parenting is associated with cellular aging in offspring: A retrospective study," uses data from 200 subjects who participated in two prospective cohort studies of Seventh-day Adventist men and women: the Adventist Health Study-1 (AHS-1) with 34,000 Californians in 1976 and AHS-2 with 96,000 subjects from the United States and Canada in 2002-2007. The research takes a closer look at the impact parenting style has on telomere succession. The way someone is raised seems to tell a story that is intertwined with their genetics. The study also examined the impact education and body mass index (BMI) may have on the association between cold parenting and telomere length. The association with parenting style was greatest among those with less education, and those who stayed overweight/obese or put on weight during follow-up, suggesting both higher education and normal BMI may provide some resilience against cold parenting and cellular aging.

The right kind of parenting

Irrespective of geographical location and the financial status of parents, all children need some basic things from their parents. They need to feel loved and appreciated. Imparting a sense of security is important as is the right balance of firmness and rewards. If you are too lenient, your child may display behavioral issues. Too many rules may turn your child into a rebel. There are good and bad things in all styles of parenting. You, as a parent, need to focus on what you can do to bring up well-adjusted children who are capable of independently finding a place for themselves in the world when they grow up. Follow your instincts and you will not go wrong.

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