Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Relationship Between Physical Contact and Genetics of an Infant
In this article, it was mentioned that the amount of physical contact an infant gets from their caregivers can affect the child at a molecular level that can be detected 4 years after birth. This study's findings have been similar to studies on rodents, but this is the first study to show in humans that touching, early in life, can have possible consequences on genetic expression. The researchers of this study predicted that children with less physical contact with their caregivers will result in underdeveloped cells for their age (epigenetic aging), which can cause an inability to thrive. 94 healthy children in British Colombia were involved and researchers have asked the parents of 5-week-old infants to keep track of their child's behavior that include crying, fussing, sleeping, and feeding. The parents were also asked to record the duration of bodily contact with their child. When the child is about 4 1/2 years of age, their DNA was taken by swabbing the inside of their cheeks. By analyzing a biochemical modification called DNA methylation in 5 specific DNA sites, researchers found consistent methylation differences between high-contact and low-contact children. The effects of the epigenetic changes on a child's development and health are unknown, but some recent studies have shown that children who experienced higher distress and little contact were linked to poor health.
I found this study very interesting because I work at a daycare in my hometown and they talk about how important physical contact is with infants and children at a very young age. I never understood why, but this study opened my eyes to giving a little more TLC (tender, love, and care) to help with their molecular development. This study is a huge stepping stone to better understand children and help improve their development in every way, genetically or psychologically. I feel that there's a lot more that needs to be done to further confirm these findings. These kinds of studies can help new parents better understand their child and be more involved in the child's overall development.