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Parents’ emotional trauma may change their children’s biology. Studies in mice show how []


By Andrew Curry, Science, July 18, 2019.

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND—The children living in SOS Children's Villages orphanages in Pakistan have had a rough start in life. Many have lost their fathers, which in conservative Pakistani society can effectively mean losing their mothers, too: Destitute widows often struggle to find enough work to support their families and may have to give up their children.

The orphanages, in Multan, Lahore, and Islamabad, provide shelter and health care and send kids to local schools, trying to provide "the best possible support," says University of Zurich (UZH) physician and neuroscientist Ali Jawaid. "But despite that, these children experience symptoms similar to PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]," including anxiety and depression.

Beyond these psychological burdens, Jawaid wonders about a potential hidden consequence of the children's experience. He has set up a study with the orphanages to probe the disturbing possibility that the emotional trauma of separation from their parents also triggers subtle biological alterations—changes so lasting that the children might even pass them to their own offspring.

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This is such disturbing news when one thinks of the millions of children worldwide. Here in the US, we know the harm being done on the border and throughout the country at the detention centers, the criminal amounts of money going to the contractors who are allegedly caring for the children separated from their parents — after these children have gone though such Hell with their parents to escape the dangers of their homelands. 

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