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Mom’s hugs in youth may help keep doctor away later

May 18, 2010
Courtesy Nature Publishing Group
and World Science staff

While pov­er­ty has been as­so­ci­at­ed with high­er risk for ill­nesses, re­ceiv­ing plen­ty of ma­ter­nal warmth dur­ing child­hood might help low­er this risk, a new study re­ports.

The re­search ap­pears this week in the jour­nal Mo­lec­u­lar Psy­chi­a­try.

Warmth and car­ing from a per­son’s moth­er ap­pears to re­duce the forma­t­ion of pro­tein mo­le­cules that pro­mote in­flamma­t­ion in tis­sues of the body, said the au­thors, Edith Chen of the Uni­vers­ity of Brit­ish Co­lum­bia, Can­a­da, and col­leagues.

Ex­ces­sive or chron­ic in­flamma­t­ion is in turn im­pli­cat­ed with men­tal and phys­i­cal ill­nesses such as ma­jor de­pres­sion and car­di­o­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

For the study, Chen and col­leagues re­cruited 53 adults who came from low so­ci­o­ec­on­omic back­grounds early in child­hood, with no sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences in cur­rent de­mo­graph­ic or be­hav­ior­al fac­tors. The re­search­ers tested pat­terns of im­mune sys­tem ac­tiva­t­ion and in­flamma­t­ion in the cir­cu­la­to­ry sys­tems of these peo­ple. They were al­so asked about their early rela­t­ion­ship with their moth­ers; their par­ents were called to con­firm their child­hood so­ci­o­ec­on­omic sta­tus. 

The 26 par­ti­ci­pants who de­scribed their moth­ers as warm and car­ing were shown to have re­duced in­flammatory pro­files com­pared with the oth­er 27 par­ti­ci­pants, Chen and col­leagues said.

These find­ings could be im­por­tant for pro­mot­ing sup­port­ive pa­ren­tal rela­t­ion­ships as a means of help­ing to re­duce the neg­a­tive med­i­cal con­se­quenc­es of pov­er­ty, ac­cord­ing to the re­search­ers. They added that this could al­so lead to fu­ture re­search in­to the ways that early child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences af­fect in­flammatory mo­lec­u­lar path­ways in­to adult­hood.


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While poverty has been associated with higher risk for illnesses, receiving plenty of maternal warmth during childhood might help lower this risk, a new study reports. The research appears this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Warmth and caring from a person’s mother appears to reduce the formation of protein molecules that promote inflammation in tissues of the body, said the authors, Edith Chen of the University of British Columbia, Canada, and colleagues reported. Excessive or chronic inflammation is in turn implicated with mental and physical illnesses such as major depression and cardiovascular disease. Chen and colleagues examined 53 adults who came from low socioeconomic backgrounds early in childhood, with no significant differences in current demographic or behavioral factors. The researchers tested patterns of immune system activation and inflammation in the circulatory system of these people. They were also asked about their early relationship with their mothers; their parents were called to confirm their childhood socioeconomic status. The 26 participants who described their mothers as warm and caring were shown to have reduced inflammatory profiles compared with the other 27 participants, Chen and colleagues said. These findings could be important for promoting supportive parental relationships as a means of helping to reduce the negative medical consequences of poverty, according to the researchers. This could also lead to future research into the mechanisms by which early childhood experiences continue to affect inflammatory molecular pathways into adulthood.