Friday, March 29, 2019

What You Experience Could Impact Your Offspring

Based on this article in Nature: In 1864, nearing the end of the US Civil War, conditions in the Confederate prisoner of war camps were at their worst, with overcrowding in some camps that Union Army soldier (prisoner) death rates soared. For survivors, the harrowing experiences marked many of them for life -- returning to society with impaired health, worse job prospects, and shorter life expectancy. Such hardships also had an effect on the prisoners’ children and grandchildren, which appeared to be passed down the male line of families. While their sons and grandsons had not suffered the hardships of the PoW camps -- they suffered higher rates of mortality than the wider population. It appeared the PoWs had passed on some element of their trauma to their children.

Your experiences during your lifetime – particularly traumatic ones – would have a very real impact on your family for generations to come. There are a growing number of studies that support the idea that the effects of trauma can reverberate down the generations through epigenetics. For the PoWs in the Confederate camps, these epigenetic changes were a result of the extreme overcrowding, poor sanitation and malnutrition. The men had to survive on small rations of corn, and many died from diarrhoea and scurvy. “There is this period of intense starvation,” says study author Dora Costa, an economist at the University of California, Los Angeles. 
For a long while we have understood that child abuse, for example, is very often passed from one generation to another. And as to how far back some of these cycles of abuse go is hard to determine. There are many cases of a person who was abused themselves -- and they also know what it feels like -- yet, they repeat to another what was done to them. This suggests in some cases a human being appears to have no control over their actions.

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