Several factors have been found to shorten telomeres, including smoking, radiation and psychological stresses such as early life maltreatment and taking care of a chronically ill person.
Telomeres shortened faster in kids exposed to two or more types of violence, says Shalev, a post-doctoral researcher at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy in Durham, N.C. Unless that pattern changes, the study suggests, these kids could be expected to develop diseases of aging, such as heart attacks or memory loss, seven to 10 years earlier than their peers.
There's nothing about my unpopular decision to not have two specific teenagers here in our home, that makes me have second thoughts.
I feel terrible that I fought such an uphill, impossible battle for nearly ten years, in and out of court and working with DJJ, chasing after just the right mental health professionals via Pathways or Advantage, after exhausting private avenues via Dr. G, Dr. C and Dr. Mandy, trying absolutely everything to virtually no avail.
That my young kids had to witness all sorts of domestic violence incidents against me, and others, has burned a hole in my soul. I grieve, I stress out about it, I yammer to Dr. Mandy, cry and wail about it to Yolie, grumble to my mom, and then go weed, weed, weed until my raging thoughts are once again under control.
There are some children that do not do well in families, that need so much more extra professional help, that wraparound services can't even begin to touch. I bitterly now know this from experience.
I look at my fairly normal 12 kids still here at home and my heart aches for all they've witnessed and experienced. That I took the ugly step, fought the last battle with the court's blessing, that I will not have certain kids even visit in our home is due to my own shortened telomeres, our group PTSD, and the obvious fact that I dearly want Tabby, and the 11 others, to grow up normally and to achieve her dreams of being a teacher, and their other various goals.
"Can you afford college for me?" she asked, after hearing on the school playground, of all places, that it was expensive.
Yes, it is expensive, but if one is willing to sacrifice and to follow down the trail of scholarships and foundations, it can be done, I've already done so with nearly a dozen kids. I'm happy to do so. I thrive on those kinds of challenges.
I'm not a magician, I'm not Super Mom, I'm just a 57 year old energetic, dedicated old bat who will work very hard every day, but I can not, I will not, allow the level of violence that we've previously lived under to infect, or affect, my children anymore.
Tabby's a lovely, once severely traumatized, yet very resilient, child who needs normal behavior redirection, supervision, and a ton of love and attention. Yet back then if I ever even glanced her way lovingly, there'd be immediate hell to pay by The One Who Must Control Everything.
If I'm still twitching at the thought, still trying to recover, then how much so for Tabby? Or Sabrina who routinely had her clothes cut up or destroyed by TOWMCE? Or my sons who scattered like fire ants whenever she came into a room?
Shalev says there is hope for these kids. His study found that, in rare cases, telomeres can lengthen. Better nutrition, exercise and stress reduction are three things that may be able to lengthen telomeres, he says.
The study confirms a small-but-growing number of studies suggesting that early childhood adversity imprints itself in our chromosomes.
"We know that toxic stress is bad for you," says Nathan Fox, a professor of human development at the University of Maryland and co-author of the 2011 paper. "This paper provides a mechanism by which this type of stress gets 'under the skin' and into the genes."