Epigenetics has been growing but the jury is still out on whether emotional trauma definitely triggers a generational biological and health change. Some animal studies have had promising evidence.
Epigenetics is different than trauma passed to the next generation through parenting or families living for generations in the same stressful or dangerous environment.
The research team includes University of Dayton and Dayton Children’s Hospital. The study recently expanded to include families from the broader Southwest Ohio area, as well as from Detroit and Atlanta. Enrolled families, which includes parents and children ages 8 to 10 years old, participate biannually in online questionnaires and by sharing mail-in saliva samples.
Participation in the study is voluntary, with financial compensation for each study visit. Those interested in learning more about the study can visit DaytonKidsProject.com or e-mail DaytonKids@UDayton.edu or DaytonKids@mclean.harvard.edu.
In the long term, researchers believe the study’s results will help identify actionable markers before the onset of mental health problems, and provide earlier and more effective interventions for at-risk children.
“It can sound like determinism when we’re talking about things that are inherited, but really we’re looking at things that are potentially modifiable and that could be changed within the lifetime if resources are allocated appropriately and if intervention is early enough,” said Lucy Allbaugh, PhD, with UD’s Department of Psychology.