The way the body sees the children’s DNA may change as a result of tight parenting. Children who experience restrictive parenting may have these changes “hard-wired” into their DNA, increasing their chance of developing depression later in life.
“We observed that perceived harsh parenting, with physical punishment and psychological manipulation, can introduce an additional set of instructions on how a gene is read to become hard-wired into DNA,” stated Dr. Evelien Van Assche when presenting the research at the ECNP Congress in Vienna. Some evidence suggests that these alterations alone may predispose the developing infant to depression.
If the kids were raised in a loving environment, this doesn’t happen as much “. The University of Leuven researchers in Belgium selected 21 teens who described their parents as good parents (for example, they were understanding and allowed their children independence) and contrasted them with 23 teenagers who described their parents as tough parents (for example, manipulative behaviour, physical punishment, excessive strictness). All of the teenagers were between the ages of 12 and 16, with 14 serving as the mean age for both groups. The fact that there were 11 adolescents in each group who were boys shows that the two groups were similar in terms of age and the ratio of boys to girls. A large number of parents “>tight parenting exhibited early, subclinical depressive symptoms.
The range of methylation was then assessed across more than 450,000 sites in each subject’s DNA, and the researchers found that it was significantly higher in persons who reported having experienced a challenging upbringing. When a little chemical molecule is introduced to DNA, a common process called methylation occurs that changes how your DNA’s instructions are read. For instance, methylation might make a gene produce more or less of a certain enzyme than it otherwise would. Increased methylation variation has been associated with depression. “We based our method on past work with identical twins,” says Evelien Van Assche.
For the majority of these hundreds of thousands of data points, two independent groups discovered that the twin with significant depression also had a larger range of DNA methylation than the healthy twin “.
Dr. Van Assche continued, who is presently employed by the University of Münster in Germany “The DNA is unchanged, but these extra chemical groups change how the DNA’s instructions are read. We hypothesise that the inclination towards sadness was ingrained in the DNA of those who experienced harsher parenting through greater methylation variance.
We are currently attempting to close the loop by connecting it to a later depression diagnosis and, perhaps, using this higher methylation variance as a marker to identify those who may be more susceptible to developing depression as a result of their upbringing.
Although the influence of strict parenting was the focus of this study, it is likely that any severe stress will cause similar changes in DNA methylation. As a result, childhood stress may increase your risk of developing depression later in life by changing how your DNA is read. However, a bigger sample size is required to confirm these findings.
The Department of Psychiatry at the Amsterdam University Medical Center’s Professor Christiaan Vinkers commented, saying: “This is significant work to understand how unfavourable childhood experiences have life-long repercussions for both mental and physical health. If we can comprehend not only who is at risk but also the various repercussions of rigorous parenting, we will benefit much.