+
5 years ago, a landmark study found weird evidence that a stressful childhood affects you forever.
Photo by Ryan Fields on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Lawrence Crayton on Unsplash

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.

Photo by ia huh on Unsplash

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.

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: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

Honorees, speakers and guests on stage at We the Peoples

True

Some people say that while change is inevitable, progress is a choice. In other words, it’s a purposeful act—like when American media mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner established the United Nations Foundation 25 years ago.

Keep ReadingShow less

Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train" actually saved 21 missing children.

Anyone who was a teen in the '90s will remember the grunge era. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were topping the charts with their gravely metaphorical lyrics, but they weren't alone. Soul Asylum burst onto the scene with their solemn anthem "Runaway Train" complete with a video that showcased missing kids.

The video gave missing and exploited children a much bigger platform to be recognized on, because before the video was showcased on MTV, milk cartons were the common method to distribute these photos. In theory, milk cartons seem like a pretty effective way to highlight missing children, but in reality, eventually people would become blind to the photos.

The music video for "Runaway Train" was played all around the world and to the target audience that would most likely recognize the faces. It should come as no surprise, then, that the video helped to bring home 21 missing children. What is surprising, is that the band had to push to keep the pictures of the missing kids in the music video because people didn't think it was working.

Keep ReadingShow less
True

Innovation is awesome, right? I mean, it gave us the internet!

However, there is always a price to pay for modernization, and in this case, it’s in the form of digital eye strain, a group of vision problems that can pop up after as little as two hours of looking at a screen. Some of the symptoms are tired and/or dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain1. Ouch!

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

Florida city commissioner is being called a hero for confronting mayor who cut off power to residents

"You're calling me disrespectful because I've interrupted people, but this gentleman has turned off people's lights in the middle of a global health pandemic."

City commission meeting in Lake Worth Beach, Florida

This article originally appeared on 03.23.20


Palm Beach Post/YouTubeThey say a crisis brings out the best and the worst in people. It also reveals the best and the worst in our leaders.

A city commission meeting in Lake Worth Beach, Florida has gone viral after Commissioner Omari Hardy took his fellow city officials to task for their seeming indifference to their constituents during the coronavirus crisis.

Hardy confronted Mayor Pam Triolo and City Manager Michael Bornstein, who he said refused to call an emergency meeting last week, per Hardy's repeated requests, to discuss issues coming about from the coronavirus crisis. And he let his frustrations show.

"You're calling me disrespectful because I've interrupted people, but this gentleman has turned off people's lights in the middle of a global health pandemic," Hardy said, referring to Bornstein.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Martin Splitt on Unsplash

Classes available to learn the life saving technique of CPR.

This article originally appeared on 06.27.17


Summer is here. The season of backyard barbecues, long evenings by the bonfire, and a nagging worry that every parent can relate to — the dangers that come with a swimming pool.

The chances a child will die from drowning are relatively low, according to the CDC. But still — it's great to be prepared to step in and help with CPR, should it ever be necessary.


Keep ReadingShow less
Community

A newly single mom gets inspiring life advice from an internet 'Bubbie' who's been there

'Take care of yourself first. When you take care of yourself, you can take care of your kid.'

Photo by arty on Unsplash

A newly single mom gets inspiring life advice from an internet grandma.

Becoming a single mom isn't easy, especially if it's unexpected and you feel wholly unprepared. Recently, a newly single mom posted a tearful plea on TikTok asking for advice on how to navigate her new life. But she wasn't without advice long, "TikTok Bubbie" stitched the video and responded explaining how she survived as an unexpectedly single mom in 1989.

The video was sweet and full of inspiration for single parents starting their journey. In the beginning of the video she explained that her ex-husband left her when her son was 4 years old and took all the money out of the bank account. Being suddenly single caused her to have to give up her acting career.

The internet Bubbie went on to tell the young mom, "I got furniture from the Salvation Army. That's right, I got secondhand furniture. Secondhand clothes for me, my son never. He always was first in my book and still is to this day." TikTok Bubbie wasn't done, she made a second video to expand on her advice.

Keep ReadingShow less