News in Parenting: Bullying Ages Children
I know I’ve already featured articles on Bullying (it’s a pretty hot topic right now, especially with the new movie Bully coming out soon), but this article brings up a whole new concerning, and fairly interesting, aspect of bullying that parents should be aware of: being the victim of violence, bullying being the most common cause, ages your child prematurely!
Crazy, right? And it’s not just an emotional thing. It’s real, physical proof inside your child’s DNA. Each DNA chromosome has little caps called telomeres. As chromosomes replicate, these telomeres become shorter and shorter, and are therefore the body’s biological age stamp. It’s amazing, but you can typically tell how old someone is simply buy looking at how short their telomeres are…makes you think twice about leaving your hair at the bottom of the shower (someone might find out your real age!).
So, this study followed 2,232 kids (huge sample size…I like it) from age 5-10, taking DNA samples at age 5 and then again at age 10. Those who were exposed to two or more acts of violence (including bullying), had significantly shorter telomeres. What I love about this study, lead by a professor at Duke University, is that they accounted for everything! Some people have naturally shorter telomeres – they adjusted for this. Children growing up in naturally stressful situations, like poverty, will have affected stress levels – they adjusted for this. They even accounted for children decreased health factors as they were exposed to violence! I love a well done study.
So what does this mean for us? Besides the added education on DNA, it means that we have yet one more thing to motivate us to end bullying. And if our children do become the victims of bullying, it means that we have to be aware of the possible health factors. There are all sorts of things to be aware of when considering a child’s premature development, not the least being an early onset of awkward middle school years. And if your child is bullied now, it’s hard to imagine what early development will do to help the problem. There are rare health concerns as well, such as early adult pulmonary function. All the more reason to monitor your playgrounds and who your child is playing with.