START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
925,350 people care about Women's Rights

Moms are the Root of All Problems, Says Science

Moms are the Root of All Problems, Says Science

Mothers are on the spot once again for causing their children’s psychological problems. This time it goes even further: they could affect not just their children, but their grandchildren and great-grandchildren — even without meeting them.

And guess what: one of the biggest contributors to good mothering is avoiding stress. So moms: everything you do could affect your child’s life forever, but make sure you don’t worry about it!

Two male (color me shocked) scientists are credited with founding the branch of epigenetic research responsible for these conclusions. Michael Meaney and Moshe Szyf posit that nurture — one’s experiences and environment — can alter the expression of DNA permanently. Early childhood experiences have a stronger effect than later life does.

Methyl groups and acetyl groups are the key substances involved. “Methylation [adding methyl groups to DNA] switches genes off. Acetylation [adding acetyl groups to histones, which are the proteins wrapped around DNA] switches them on.” The DNA remains the same, but it is expressed differently because different genes are off and on as a result of life experiences. Epigenetics is the study of this process. The question at hand is whether the modifications to methyl and acetyl groups can be passed down, and the answer looks like a resounding “yes.”

Don’t worry about it if you didn’t understand that paragraph (especially mothers of young children: don’t worry! Just generally!). The point is that people can inherit the chemical results of their progenitors’ experiences. Discover Magazine dubbed it “postnatal inheritance.”

Most of the experiments demonstrating these effects involved subjecting mice to bullying or neglectful parenting. The Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute went a different route, injecting the hapless rodents with nicotine. The results showed that a smoker’s offspring could suffer diseased, asthmatic lungs even if they didn’t smoke themselves. One more reason to quit.

The good news is the evidence that methylation and acetylation can be reversed. When injected directly into rats’ brains, a drug that removes methyl groups undid the methylation that their “rotten mothers” had caused.

The Economist struck a moralistic tone after describing the nicotine study:

Epigenetics is a reminder that when making choices about what you eat and drink and put into your body, and what you do (go for that daily walk or hunker down on the couch with a bowl of something salty), you’re not only doing it for yourself, but for future generations and for the future of all of us.

Discover Magazine’s article about this area of study had similar subtext. In addition to the “rotten mothers” language quoted above, it stated that “miserable mothering” made children into “nervous wrecks,” and the damage could be seen in the second generation’s brains.

If you aren’t feeling bad enough, moms, how about being blamed for suicide? A study comparing the brains of people who committed suicide with others who died from different causes found lots of methylation in relevant parts of the suicide victims’ brains. Childhood abuse was particularly closely associated with excess methylation.

One study of paternal contributions to messed up gene expression managed to blame mothers even for dads’ shoddy genetic material. First the researchers locked male mice up with meaner mice who bullied them for days. Then they got each of the bullied mice together with a female mouse who became pregnant. The bullied father never met his kids, who came out pretty messed up emotionally.

Here’s the twist: when researchers artificially inseminated female mice with sperm from the bullied mice, so that neither mother nor babies ever met dad, the kids wound up fine. That’s why this is all mom’s fault: when she knew she had mated with a “loser,” as Discover put it, she neglected the resulting babies. I guess she figured they were doomed no matter what she did. But when she didn’t know that the sperm donor was such an undesirable, she nurtured her babies well and undid the damage dad’s genetic contribution caused. Or so goes the theory.

After hammering them, the science offers mothers two rays of light. The first is that orphans suffer more methylation than children never separated from their biological parents, so even if these studies have left you nervous, don’t give the kids away to a “better” mom. Just being with you is beneficial. The second is that one of the most effective things moms (and presumably dads) can do is touch their babies a lot. There isn’t much room to worry about whether you’re doing that right or not, so go hug the tots. Your great-grandchildren will thank you.

Related Story:

How Smoking Can Hurt Your Grandchildren

 

Read more: , , ,

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

246 comments

+ add your own
7:29PM PDT on Jun 22, 2013

So, adopted kids are doomed? Better to stay with a crack addicted mother? Okay.

And I wish they leave the poor mice and rats out of our screwed up lives!

3:02AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

Interesting! But nurturing a kid is the responsibility of both parents and everyone in the family. So, why does mom have to be the only one to take the blame?

4:00PM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

To Eternal G. - can't help it ... seems to be the holy ghost ... :-)

3:41PM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

...and who again are the ones that impregnate moms?

2:38PM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

No question, behaviors are passed down from generation to generation. I think all the family's close relatives have something to do with that as well as the Mom's that have much access to the children growing up.
It is said we often marry the same people who have the same problems and if we are lucky, we'll recognize the frailities so to work it out.

7:53AM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

Thank you Piper, for Sharing this!

12:16AM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

Ok ladies lets demand that MEN take over carrying and bringing up the children while we LOAF at work

5:36PM PDT on Jun 17, 2013

This is really interesting. Epigenetics are on the cutting edge or research and facts, I can't wait for the next discovery.

7:54AM PDT on Jun 17, 2013

This is evidence-based science. This is accurate. DNA results do not lie. This is not sexist. It is hard science. And if you don't understand science, but are religious, consider this: Even the Bible reads: "The sins of the parents will be visited upon the children."

This study has been PROVEN with women who lived through WARS, and then their children, and their grandchildren.

The IMPORTANT questions for all women & the true points of discussion are: "How can we best take care of ourselves before, during and after pregnancy? How can we best care for our offspring? One answer is breastfeeding. Another is to keep your infant at your side every possible minute. Another answer is to speak softly and gently around your infants and toddlers. Don't scream at anybody or fight with children in the room or where they can hear.
Even the Bible tells us to have a gentle voice.

When my child was young, I comforted him immediately if he started crying. (Some parents purposely let the baby cry himself/herself sick, which is cruel. Life is tough enough and unfortunately he/she will learn that soon enough.) If he cried, I breastfed him. Even if he was not hungry, just the suckling of the breast soothed him and calmed him. I kept him near me or held him whenever possible. He's a healthy young man,now. He's strong, determined, confident, kind, smart, funny, popular, etc.

Mothers: Love your children and give them a great start in life. And, also, be lik

6:54AM PDT on Jun 17, 2013

Scintist's make me STRESSED!!! What a load of absolute tosh. These genius's, gather together and think up what they can make in to an experiment next - sooo, they then approach the government for a grant to subsidise thus experiment. Then torture animals for fun, rolling out pathetic, inconclusive results, while they enjoy the dosh. Unbelievable!!!

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Care2 - Be Extraordinary - Start a Care2 Petition
ads keep care2 free
CONTACT THE EDITORS

Recent Comments from Causes

Jeb Bush for President? He's "too liberal" for the modern day GOP!

a small step in the right direction that all states might benefit by replicating

ads keep care2 free

more from causes




Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.