Thursday, June 19th, 2014
Children who witness violence at home, including a parent’s incarceration, physical abuse, or violent death may develop a genetic “marker” that puts them at higher risk of developing a range of health problems later in life. Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes may be more likely to develop, along with psychological issues like depression and anxiety, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics. More from The Wall Street Journal:
The study’s lead author, Tulane professor Stacy Drury, took a closer look at a genetic marker that’s been linked with negative health outcomes later in life: the length of a person’s telomeres.
Telomeres are DNA elements that cap the ends of chromosomes, and they become shorter when cells divide and age. But shorter telomere lengths have also been associated with stress-related diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The study surveyed and tested the DNA of 80 kids between the ages of 5 and 15 in New Orleans; those who had experienced more family-related violence at home were found to have shorter telomeres.
“The more adverse childhood events you have when you’re little, the greater the risk of pretty much any health condition when you get older,” Drury said in an interview. “That’s a biological type of scar that happens when you’re a kid.”
The new research adds to a growing body of information about the physical as well as emotional effects of violence on children–although at least one study has found that today’s kids are exposed to less violent crime than they were a decade ago.
Image: Sad boy, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
“To Train Up a Child,” a parenting book that advocates parents use such extreme discipline measures as starvation and severe beatings with switches and plastic tubes, has been implicated in the murders of three children, all adoptees: 4-year-old Sean Paddock, 7-year-old Lydia Schatz, and 13-year-old Hana Williams. Last month, Williams’ adoptive parents, Larry and Carri Williams, were convicted of homicide by abuse after the girl died of malnutrition and hypothermia, both punishments linked with advice from the book, which was written by a preacher and his wife. Politix.com reports on a petition that is circulating urging Amazon.com to remove the book from its website–so far, the petition has garnered more than 80,000 signatures:
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The book by preacher Michael Pearl and his wife Debi advocates using a switch on babies starting at 6 months old. The book also recommends beating older children with a flexible plumbing pipe that “can be rolled up and carried in your pocket.” The Williams’s seem to have taken that advice to heart. When Hana died, her body was scarred by beatings with the plumbing line.
The same kind of tubing was used to beat Lydia Schatz, 7, whose adoptive parents were convicted of second-degree murder in her death. Her parents would intersperse beatings with prayer. Lydia “died from severe tissue damage, and her older sister had to be hospitalized,” the New York Times reports. Another small child, 4-year-old Sean Paddock, was scarred by beatings with the tubing when he died at the hands of his adoptive parents.
The Williams’s told friends that Hana was “rebellious” and recommended To Train up a Child as manual for dealing with rebellious children, according to Slate. Hana has also been deprived of food (perhaps following the Pearls’ advice that “a little fasting is good training”) and forced to shower outside and sleep in a barn without bedding, even in freezing weather.
Currently over 670,000 copies of To Train Up a Child are in circulation.
Friday, September 13th, 2013
Physical and sexual abuse of children has declined over the past two decades, but the number of children who experience emotional abuse and neglect–mostly by their parents–is increasing. These are the findings of a report by the Institute of Medicine, where researchers called the data a mixed blessing. More from NBC News:
Dr. Lolita McDavid, medical director of child advocacy and protection at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, says she believes awareness explains a lot. “I think we are much more aware now that there is physical and sexual abuse and I think we do a much better job of making families and children understand that,” McDavid told NBC News.
“We are empowering children.”
But the experts say it’s vital to look into the reasons that physical abuse may be going down, yet neglect and emotional abuse are staying at the same levels. They call for sustained federal research into what’s going on and a new database to track child abuse statistics.
Even if numbers are going down, overall, many children are abused and neglected in the United States, the panel of experts reports.
“Each year more than 3 million referrals for child abuse and neglect are received that involve around 6 million children, although most of these reports are not substantiated,” the report reads.
Image: Neglected girl, via Shutterstock
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