Conflict in childhood may lead to health ills as adult

Conflict in childhood may lead to health ills as adult By: Bill Levesque

Conflict is to teens what water is to fish. They swim in it. Adolescents get into beefs with classmates. They’re berated by bullies. Romance blooms, then wilts in acrimony. Teens often struggle against parental control.

Thankfully, teen angst is temporary. We all grow up. But does the body remember?

That is the title of a new University of Virginia study that shows those seemingly fleeting childhood battles may actually lead to premature aging and health problems like arthritis, osteoporosis and even cancer.

Researchers followed a group of 127 adolescents, starting at age 13, at a Charlottesville middle school. They found those who experienced chronic social conflict at that age ended up having elevated levels of the protein interleukin-6 in their bloodstream when tested as 28-year-olds.

The protein, which scientists have linked to stress, is associated with some of the ills of aging.

Researchers think the developing adolescent brain may be especially open to the often stressful influences of peer relationships. They say the findings are especially alarming. Childhood is a time we are supposed to learn from our mistakes as we mature.

But the researchers admit the thought that the struggles of those 13-year-olds stick with them even when middle school is a hazy memory is frightening.

It’s easy to trivialize teen drama. But adolescent relationships are much more significant, researchers say, than parents realize. So, it’s important, they say, for parents to exercise good conflict resolution to provide a model of behavior for their kids.

That way, the pangs of youth won’t become the scars of old age.

Related Episodes