Strict or harsh parenting could increase a child’s risk of depression later in life, study suggests | UK News

Strict parenting could increase a child’s risk of depression later in life, according to new research.

Scientists say that being manipulative or harsh towards a child can actually alter the way their body reads their DNA.

Such changes can become “hardwired” to the DNA of a child who sees their parents as harsh, increasing their risk of depression.

Researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium chose 21 children who saw their parents as supportive.

They compared these children to 23 whose parents were described as using manipulative behaviour, physical punishment or excessive strictness.

The children were aged between 12 and 16.

The study found that many of those who had experienced harsh parenting showed initial, subclinical signs of depression.

They also had significantly increased ranges of methylation – a normal process that occurs when a small chemical molecule is added to the DNA, changing the way the instructions written in DNA are read by the body.

Presenting the work at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress in Vienna, Dr Evelien Van Assche said: “In this study we investigated the role of harsh parenting, but it’s likely that any significant stress will lead to such changes in DNA methylation; so, in general, stresses in childhood may lead to a general tendency to depression in later life by altering the way your DNA is read.”

The study has not been peer-reviewed and the results will need to be confirmed in a larger sample.

Dr Van Assche said: “We based our approach on prior research with identical twins.

“Two independent groups found that the twin diagnosed with major depression also had a higher range of DNA methylation for the majority of these hundreds of thousands of data points, as compared to the healthy twin.

“The DNA remains the same but these additional chemical groups affect how the instructions from the DNA are read.

“Those who reported harsher parenting showed a tendency towards depression and we believe that this tendency has been baked into their DNA through increased variation in methylation.

“We are now seeing if we can close the loop by linking it to a later diagnosis of depression, and perhaps use this increased methylation variation as a marker to give advance warning of who might be at greater risk of developing depression as a result of their upbringing.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *