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