+
upworthy
Health

Childhood stress shows up everywhere in adult life—even the inside of your mouth

According to a study from Iowa State University…our spit says it all.

childhood trauma
Canva

how many wonders can this mouth cavern hold?

This article originally appeared on 12.18.17

We know your relationship with your parents can affect a lot about who you are as you grow up. But is it possible that the good and bad of that relationship could actually show up in your saliva?

That's the bizarre-but-important question a team of researchers recently asked, the results of which were published in Developmental Science.


Led by Elizabeth Shirtcliff, an associate professor from Iowa State University who studies early childhood adversity, the study gathered 300 8th-grade kids and used a simple survey to determine some basic facts about their parents. The kids were asked things like whether they were close with their parents and how often positive reinforcement was used in their household.

The team was looking for signs of what they called "positive parenting, attachment, and bonding."

Six years later, the kids — now adults — were brought back in for a strange follow-up. The researchers collected a dozen different samples of their saliva.

It sounds a little gross, but they were looking for something important: the presence of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is crucial to our overall well-being. Lower levels of cortisol are correlated with fatigue, mood swings, and muscle loss, for example. Higher levels of cortisol correlate with healthy blood pressure levels and better immune system function (though extremely high levels are a health risk).

For this study, cortisol was particularly important because it plays a big role in how we process and react to stress. When we're faced with extreme stress or danger, cortisol floods our bodies, resulting in the "fight or flight," response.

The study's authors observed that people who are generally more stressed over longer periods of time, however, often show lower cortisol levels — almost like they get accustomed to all that stress over time and have a lesser reaction to it. While this might sound like a good thing, as far as your health goes, it's definitely not.

The results of the study were clear: The more signs the kids showed of a positive bond with their parents when they were young, the better their cortisol functioned in adulthood.

Canva

That's a good thing, the researchers suggest, because it helps keep kids alert and sensitive to all of the stimuli and information swirling around them from day to day, rather than having a blunted response to stressors and life in general.

So having great parents who use positive parenting methods is a good thing. Yay!

But the study had an important twist when it came to looking at racial demographics.

When race differences were accounted for — about half the kids were black and half were white — the cortisol correlation didn't hold up.

On average, the study found, white and black parents were equally likely to have a positive bond with their kids. But parenting styles aren't the only thing that can affect stress levels and kids' response to it.

Photo by ia huh on Unsplash


Many of the white students in the study may have benefited from "low stress, resource-rich contexts which unfortunately may be less common for black youth," the researchers explained.

It's also worth noting that many groups — including black people of people Jewish descent — carry biological markers of trauma from previous generations (i.e., slavery, the Holocaust), which can also affect cortisol response.

In other words, growing up with various socioeconomic and other hardships does indeed have a lifelong impact, and now we've got the beakers full of saliva (so to speak) to prove it.

This is important work. It proves that, in many cases, being a great parent can actually physically manifest itself in kids growing up to be well-adjusted and adaptable.

Being a loving parent can actually have a biological impact on your kids years and years later. That's amazing!

Perhaps most importantly, however, it shows a glaring need for kids — particularly those belonging to marginalized or disadvantaged groups — to get better support in the form of solid education, safe communities to grow up in, and more opportunities to learn and grow.

Having great parents isn't always enough to overcome a world that seems to be stacked against you, but it certainly helps.

Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

Gen Z is navigating a career landscape unlike any other.

True

Every adult generation has its version of a “kids these days” lament, labeling the up-and-coming generation as less resilient or hardworking compared to their own youth. But Gen Z—currently middle school age through young adulthood—is challenging that notion with their career readiness.

Take Abigail Sanders, an 18-year-old college graduate. Thanks to a dual enrollment program with her online school, she actually earned her bachelor’s degree before her high school diploma. Now she’s in medical school at Bastyr University in Washington state, on track to become a doctor by age 22.

a family of 6 at a graduation with two graduatesAll four of the Sanders kids have utilized Connections Academy to prepare for their futures.

Abigail’s twin sister, Chloe, also did dual enrollment in high school to earn her associate’s in business and is on an early college graduation path to become a vet tech.

Maeson Frymire dreams of becoming a paramedic. He got his EMT certification in high school and fought fires in New Mexico after graduation. Now he’s working towards becoming an advanced certified EMT and has carved his career path towards flight paramedicine.

Sidny Szybnski spends her summers helping run her family’s log cabin resort on Priest Lake in Idaho. She's taken business and finance courses in high school and hopes to be the third generation to run the resort after attending college.

log cabin resort on edge of forestAfter college, Sidny Szybnski hopes to run her family's resort in Priest Lake, Idaho.

Each of these learners has attended Connections Academy, tuition-free online public schools available in 29 states across the U.S., to not only get ready for college but to dive straight into college coursework and get a head start on career training as well. These students are prime examples of how Gen Zers are navigating the career prep landscape, finding their passions, figuring out their paths and making sure they’re prepared for an ever-changing job market.

Lorna Bryant, the Head of Career Education for Connections Academy’s online school program, says that Gen Z has access to a vast array of career-prep tools that previous generations didn’t have, largely thanks to the internet.

“Twenty to 30 years ago, young people largely relied on what adults told them about careers and how to get there,” Bryant tells Upworthy. “Today, teens have a lot more agency. With technology and social media, they have access to so much information about jobs, employers and training. With a tap on their phones, they can hear directly from people who are in the jobs they may be interested in. Corporate websites and social media accounts outline an organization’s mission, vision and values—which are especially important for Gen Z.”

Research shows over 75% of high schoolers want to focus on skills that will prepare them for in-demand jobs. However, not all teens know what the options are or where to find them. Having your future wide open can be overwhelming, and young people might be afraid of making a wrong choice that will impact their whole lives.

Bryant emphasizes that optimism and enthusiasm from parents can help a lot, in addition to communicating that nothing's carved in stone—kids can change paths if they find themselves on one that isn’t a good fit.

Dr. Bryant and student video meeting Dr. Bryant meeting with a student

“I think the most important thing to communicate to teens is that they have more options than ever to pursue a career,” she says. “A two- or four-year college continues to be an incredibly valuable and popular route, but the pathways to a rewarding career have changed so much in the past decade. Today, career planning conversations include options like taking college credit while still in high school or earning a career credential or certificate before high school graduation. There are other options like the ‘ships’—internships, mentorships, apprenticeships—that can connect teens to college, careers, and employers who may offer on-the-job training or even pay for employees to go to college.”

Parents can also help kids develop “durable skills”—sometimes called “soft” or “human” skills—such as communication, leadership, collaboration, empathy and grit. Bryant says durable skills are incredibly valuable because they are attractive to employers and colleges and transfer across industries and jobs. A worldwide Pearson survey found that those skills are some of the most sought after by employers.

“The good news is that teens are likely to be already developing these skills,” says Bryant. Volunteering, having a part-time job, joining or captaining a team sport can build durable skills in a way that can also be highlighted on college and job applications.

Young people are navigating a fast-changing world, and the qualities, skills and tools they need to succeed may not always be familiar to their parents and grandparents. But Gen Z is showing that when they have a good grasp of the options and opportunities, they’re ready to embark on their career paths, wherever they may lead.

Learn more about Connections Academy here and Connections’ new college and career prep initiative here.

"Freddie Mercury" by kentarotakizawa is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Fans are thrilled to hear Freddie Mercury's iconic voice once again.

Freddie Mercury had a voice and a stage presence unlike any other in rock music history. His unique talents helped propel the band Queen to the top of music charts and created a loyal fan base around the world.

Sadly, the world lost that voice when Mercury died of AIDS at age 45. For decades, most of us have assumed we'd heard all the music we were going to hear from him.

However, according to Yahoo! Entertainment, remaining Queen members Roger Taylor and Brian May announced this summer that they had found a never-released song they'd recorded with Mercury in 1988 as they were working on the album "The Miracle."

Keep ReadingShow less
popular

10 things that made us smile this week

A weekly dose of joy, brought to you by Upworthy

Canva

All treats. No tricks.

Halloween has passed, thus kicking off the incoming holiday season. It's during this time of year that celebration, gratitude and reclaiming simple joys seem paramount.

It's not always easy to be in high spirits, though. Luckily, Upworthy can help with that. Each week we curate a list of things that brought a smile to our face. Little reminders that the world is still a pretty cool place, and that a lot of the people in it are quite wonderful.

And because the Halloween spirit doesn't have to expire after October 31st, this week's list of 10 smile-inducing things includes quite a bit of spooky fun—creative costumes, furry friends interacting with jack-o-lanterns and a friendly ghost vacuum to boot.

Scroll down and enjoy.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

SNL sketch about George Washington's dream for America hailed an 'instant classic'

"People will be referencing it as one of the all time best SNL skits for years.”

Saturday Night Live/Youtube

Seriously, what were our forefathers thinking with our measuring system?

Ever stop to think how bizarre it is that the United States is one of the only countries to not use the metric system? Or how it uses the word “football” to describe a sport that, unlike fútbol, barely uses the feet at all?

What must our forefathers have been thinking as they were creating this brave new world?

Wonder no further. All this and more is explored in a recent Saturday Night Live sketch that folks are hailing as an “instant classic.”
Keep ReadingShow less

Teona Sima seemlessly switches between accents.

Some people have an innate ability to pick up languages. One of the indicators that someone can quickly learn multiple languages is their musical ear. Those who can distinguish tones can also detect minor pronunciation differences between different languages, such as how a “D” is pronounced differently in English versus Spanish.

Studies also show that people who are great at picking up multiple languages have good memories, and they can encode things in long-term memory and retrieve them quickly.

An excellent example of someone who has the innate ability to pick up multiple languages and knows how to have fun with them is Teona Sima, who goes by The Language Blondie on special media. She is fluent in English, French, Spanish, Macedonian and Turkish. She also has the incredible ability to speak languages in the accents of people from other countries.

Keep ReadingShow less
@peterandmarie/TikTok

He cannot contain his joy at seeing snow for the first time.

Nature is a wondrous, magical thing. Everything from a falling star to the morning dew is its own small miracle. As children seeing the world for the first time, it’s easy to appreciate every natural phenomenon to the fullest (remember sticking your tongue out to taste the rain?) but those feelings are rarely so common in adulthood.

That’s why it’s so cool when we see grown-ups able to conjure true childlike awe—it’s almost like we remember to give ourselves permission to do the same.

Recently, people were brought to this space of pure joy after watching a Ugandan man experiencing snow for the first time.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

George Carlin's brilliant 'whiny Boomer' rant was decades ahead of its time

This might be the original and best "OK Boomer" mic drop.

"OK Boomer" is a catchphrase that has come to perfectly encapsulate the generational divide in modern American politics. It has also led to some moments of pure comedy gold.

But it turns out that one of the great all-time standup comedic minds was literally decades ahead of the game when it came to dragging Boomers for selfish, hypocritical, and entitled behavior. In his 1996 stand up special "Back in Town" George Carlin devoted a glorious two minutes and twenty-seven seconds to putting Boomers in their place.

Keep ReadingShow less