Although science has long-since proven that there are several mental health conditions linked to genetics, a new study uncovered that childhood trauma could actually cause changes in your DNA which can then be passed down to your children and other future generations.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health partnered with those from Helsinki University in Finland and Uppsala University in Sweden to conduct this study.
Researchers looked at two separate groups of children, one whose parents had been evacuated from Finland during World War II as children and one whose parents had remained in their homes in Finland during the war. There was a distinct difference between those who had stayed at home and those who were evacuated, as well as a difference in their children.
While it would seem that those who had stayed and faced the dangers of the war would have suffered more trauma, a recent study found that those who were evacuated met greater psychological stress from being separated from their families and having to learn a new language and adapt to a different culture.
It was found that daughters born to women who had been evacuated as children were more than four times as likely to be hospitalized because of mental health issues compared to daughters born to women that had been able to remain in their homes. Whether or not the mothers of these children had been hospitalized as a result of trauma, it did not affect the outcome.
What was also interesting was that there was no marked difference in the mental health of the sons of women who were evacuated during the war.
Researchers are not yet sure if this difference between sons and daughters being affected differently is relevant.
Previous studies done on the effect of trauma during pregnancy have confirmed that this can have an impact on children, but never before has it been indicated that trauma experienced by a mother during her childhood could affect her children.
It remains yet to be confirmed if this trauma can be passed on to the granddaughters and beyond of the trauma victims.
The first possible reason that researchers gave for this phenomenon is related to parenting style. It’s possible that the way these women parented their children was vastly different because of the trauma they experienced.
They may have made different choices on how to parent their children because they didn’t want their children to go through the same trauma as they did.
The other reason is a newer branch of science known as epigenetics.
This looks at our genetic markers and studies how things like culture, environment, and even lifestyle can affect development and our DNA. Within the field of epigenetics, there’s epigenetic inheritance, which examines how the effects of trauma can be passed down through generations.
Some proof that backs up epigenetics is in the differences in health conditions between Black Americans and those in other racial groups.
One study concluded that problems such as low birth weight rates, chronic stress, and high rates of infant mortality could potentially be linked to years of racial discrimination that has affected this group of people at a genetic level.
While there is probably still a lot of research that needs to be done to confirm the findings of all of the studies mentioned, there is also a lot that can be learned from it.
For one thing, policymakers need to be particularly aware of the potential far-reaching damage that can occur when a child goes through a traumatic experience. Additionally, individuals who have mental health issues may consider taking a closer look at their family tree to find the actual root of the problem.
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About the Author: Originally from Michigan, Melody now enjoys working as a freelance writer from her home in Nicaragua, which she shares with her amazing husband and their crazy cat that was raised on goat’s milk from the time her mother abandoned her at just ten days old. They’re excited to be expecting their first baby, who they thought was a girl, were told was a boy, and then was told was a girl. She also recently finished her first novel and is working on making a cat coloring book.