Biological aging in childhood and adolescence following experiences of threat and deprivation: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Colich, N. L., Rosen, M. L., Williams, E. S., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2020). Biological aging in childhood and adolescence following experiences of threat and deprivation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000270

Life history theory argues that exposure to early life adversity (ELA) accelerates development, although existing evidence for this varies. We present a meta-analysis and systematic review testing the hypothesis that ELA involving threat (e.g., violence exposure) will be associated with accelerated biological aging across multiple metrics, whereas exposure to deprivation (e.g., neglect, institutional rearing) and low-socioeconomic status (SES) will not. We meta-analyze 54 studies (n = 116,010) examining associations of ELA with pubertal timing and cellular aging (telomere length and DNA methylation age), systematically review 25 studies (n = 3,253) examining ELA and neural markers of accelerated development (cortical thickness and amygdala-prefrontal cortex functional connectivity) and evaluate whether associations of ELA with biological aging vary according to the nature of adversity experienced. ELA overall was associated with accelerated pubertal timing (d = −0.10) and cellular aging (d = −0.21), but these associations varied by adversity type. Moderator analysis revealed that ELA characterized by threat was associated with accelerated pubertal development (d = −0.26) and accelerated cellular aging (d = −0.43), but deprivation and SES were unrelated to accelerated development. Systematic review revealed associations between ELA and accelerated cortical thinning, with threat-related ELA consistently associated with thinning in ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and deprivation and SES associated with thinning in frontoparietal, default, and visual networks. There was no consistent association of ELA with amygdala-PFC connectivity. These findings suggest specificity in the types of early environmental experiences associated with accelerated biological aging and highlight the importance of evaluating how accelerated aging contributes to health disparities and whether this process can be mitigated through early intervention. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

Impact Statement

Public Significance Statement—This meta-analysis and systematic review suggests that biological aging following early life adversity, including earlier pubertal timing, advanced cellular aging, and accelerated thinning of the cortex, may be specific to children and adolescents who experienced violent or traumatic experiences early in childhood. No such effect was found for children who experienced deprivation or poverty in the absence of violence or trauma. These findings highlight a potential role of accelerated biological aging in health disparities associated with early life trauma, and a potential target for early interventions. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

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About S. R. Zelenz 67 Articles
S.R. Zelenz has worked in education for 20 years. Working with students from all walks of life, cultures, races, and social diversity, Zelenz’s research in Educational Leadership led to finding a better way to approach learning for students with trauma histories. Many were juvenile offenders, gang members, diagnosed with varying behavioral disorders, or had family histories of violence, murder, or narcissistic parenting. This research could not be effectively accomplished without further understanding: how epigenetic trauma inheritance may be impacting these students; how brain development from trauma may be impacting their behavioral and emotional development; as well as deep understanding of psychology and its varying classifications for behavioral and personality disorders. The goal is to find solutions for changing the conversation and making a real difference for these students. She has also worked with nonprofits of varying focus areas for the last 25 years. Her undergraduate degree in Arts Administration and Music prepared her for managing nonprofits of any size as well as procuring funding so that they can achieve their goals. Pairing her nonprofit background with her education background, she has been able to make a difference for over 200 nonprofits worldwide, written curriculum for schools across the globe, and assisted many arts organizations through performance and management.