The Association of Telomere Length With Family Violence and Disruption

Drury, S. S.,
Mabile, E.,
Brett, Z. H.,
Esteves, K.,
Jones, E.,
Shirtcliff, E. A.,
Theall, K. P.
Published: July, 2014
Journal Article
Journal Name: 
Volume: 134

Issue: 1
American Academy of Pediatrics

To enhance understanding of the biological mechanisms connecting early adversity and negative health, these authors examined the association between family interpersonal violence and disruption and telomere length in youth. The sample consisted of 80 children (ages 5 to 15) from the greater New Orleans area. Exposure to family disruption and violence was assessed through caregiver report. Telomere length from buccal cell DNA (buccal telomere length [bTL]) was determined using monochrome multiplex quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Results show that cumulative exposure to interpersonal violence and family disruption was correlated with bTL. Controlling for other sociodemographic factors, bTL was significantly shorter in children with higher exposure to family violence and disruption. Witnessing family violence exerted a particularly potent impact. The effect of family instability on bTL was significantly moderated by gender, such that the most robust effects were observed in girls. Findings suggest that the family ecology may be an important target for interventions to reduce the biological impact of adversity in the lives of children. Modified Author Abstract.

Correspondence to: Stacy S. Drury, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Tulane School of Medicine, 1430 Tulane Avenue, #8055, New Orleans, LA 70112; E-mail:, Website:
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