Nurturing parents may partially counteract inflammation caused by an overactive immune system in children of low socioeconomic status, according to a US study.
Poorer children tend to have worse health than the children of higher socioeconomic families at all stages of life, including lower birth weights, higher rates of obesity, diabetes, age-related cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Gregory E. Miller of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University and colleagues investigated whether improvements in parents’ nurturing skills may counteract the effects of low socioeconomic status on inflammation.
The authors recruited 272 African American mother-child pairs from rural Georgia in which the child was 11 years old.
Of the mother-child pairs, 173 participated in 14 hours of training in which parents were taught techniques for monitoring, nurturing, and communicating with their children, particularly about racism and risky behaviours.
Children learned the importance of household rules and received guidance on dealing with racism, how to set and attain goals, and how to avoid alcohol use.
Control families received leaflets on the same topics, but no in-person training.
Eight years later, the authors collected blood samples from the children and measured six markers of inflammation.
Children who had participated in the training displayed lower levels of the markers compared with the control group.
The results, published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), suggest that family-oriented interventions may have the potential to counteract the increased incidence of inflammation in children of poorer families.
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