Childhood Trauma Can Change the Way Your Genes Behave and Leave You More Vulnerable to Illness
The article describes how separating parents from children is an extremely traumatic event. The science just adds to the moral argument against this horrible policy.
…That sort of trauma, and exposure to large amounts of stress in childhood, is linked to epigenetic changes—changes in the way that the body turns genes on and off, and regulates biological processes—that can last into adulthood. Studies show differences in the activity levels of hundreds of genes between people who experienced trauma in their childhood and those who did not, and while scientists don’t know how all of those changes affect health, there’s good evidence for the function of a few.
Most research has focused on changes to genes involved with the receptors that regulate the stress hormone cortisol. The changes in those genes, noted in both human and rodent studies, cause cortisol levels to stay elevated for longer during stressful events, and make it harder for the body to relax. “Childhood trauma, then, reshapes how the body responds to stress long-term, across the lifetime,” Ressler says. That deregulation of the healthy stress pathways leaves people at risk for depression and other psychiatric disorders.