It’s the kind of transformation we DON’T want: Children who are exposed to violence experience wear and tear to their DNA that is similar the changes that come with aging. In a study of identical twins, researchers found that kids who had experienced violence had shorter genetic structures (called telomeres) than children who had more peaceful upbringings. It’s one more reason to give them a "time out" rather than a spanking!
Telomeres are strands of DNA that cover the ends of the chromosomes inside each cell. Every time a cell divides, the telomeres get a little bit shorter, and after about 50 to 60 cell divisions, the telomeres become so small that the cell begins to shut itself down. This is what happens during the natural aging process.
And the more types of violence a child experienced, the faster his or her telomeres eroded. In the April 25th edition of the Los Angeles Times, Eryn Brown quotes psychiatrist Owen Wolkowitz as saying, "Kids who are raised in poverty and hardship have more disease. This might explain why."
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