Love and Attention a Matter of Life and Death for Kids

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Big Kids

Love and Attention

Children institutionalized early in life have shortened telomeres, which may lead to health consequences. Credit: Getty Images

We all want love and attention, and for good reason: It is quite literally a matter of life and death.

Researchers at Children's Hospital in Boston looked at the DNA of Romanian children locked away in institutions and found continued neglect can actually alter chromosomes and speed up the aging process -- driving people to early graves.

According to U.S. News & World Report, some of the 62 boys and 47 girls studied remained in institutions while others were sent to high-quality foster care. The ones who remained warehoused had premature shortening of chromosome tips (telomeres) by the time they were 6 to 10 years old.

"The telomere is designed to protect the chromosome, so accelerating how early in life telomeres lose length correlates with shortened life span," lead researcher Charles Nelson, director of the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Children's Hospital Boston, says in a hospital news release. "Children institutionalized early in life have shortened telomeres, which may lead to health consequences downstream, including premature aging."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.