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Children from risky families suffer serious long-term health consequences, UCLA scientists report

In the first study to analyze more than a decade of research showing how a familys social environment influences physical and mental health, a team of UCLA scientists found strong evidence that children who grow up in risky families often suffer lifelong health problems, including some of societys most common serious ailments, such as cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression and anxiety disorders, as well as early death.

The UCLA scientists found large numbers of studies that reveal a pattern of serious long-term health consequences for children who grow up in homes marked by conflict, anger and aggression; that are emotionally cold, unsupportive; and where childrens needs are neglected. Some diseases do not show up until decades later, while others are evident by adolescence.

Poor health begins early in life, as does good health, said Rena Repetti, associate professor of psychology at UCLA and lead author of the article, in the current issue of the journal Psychological Bulletin. Growing up in risky families creates a cascade of risk, beginning early in life, which puts a child not only at immediate risk, but also at long-term and lifelong risk for a wide variety of physical and mental health ailments.

Repetti and her colleagues spent six years analyzing more than 500 psychological, medical and biological research studies, and integrated the findings of psychologists, pediatricians, biologists, neuroscientists, social workers and other scientists. Her co-authors are Shelley Taylor, UCLA professor of psychology, and Teresa Seeman, UCLA professor of medicine.

While many people separate physical and mental health, research shows that physical and mental health may not be as separate as is often assumed, and that our brains and bodies may be more closely connected, Repetti said.

The research studies reveal that a childs genetic predispositions interact with the environment, and in risky families, a ch
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Contact: Stuart Wolpert
stuartw@college.ucla.edu
310-206-0511
University of California - Los Angeles
21-Mar-2002


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