Prevention effects ameliorate the prospective association between nonsupportive parenting and diminished telomere length

Prev Sci. 2015 Feb;16(2):171-80. doi: 10.1007/s11121-014-0474-2.


Telomere length (TL) is an indicator of general systemic aging, with diminished TL associated with several chronic diseases of aging and with heightened mortality risk. Research has begun to focus on the ways in which stress contributes to telomere attrition. The purposes of this study were (a) to establish whether exposure to nonsupportive parenting, defined as high levels of conflict and rancor with low levels of warmth and emotional support, at age 17 would forecast TL 5 years later; and (b) to determine whether participation in an efficacious family-centered prevention program could ameliorate any associations that emerged. Rural African American adolescents participated in the Adults in the Making (AIM) program or a control condition. Primary caregivers provided data on nonsupportive parenting during a pretest when adolescents were age 17. Adolescents provided data on anger at the pretest and at a posttest administered 7 months later. When the youths were age 22, TL was assayed from a blood draw. The results indicated that heightened nonsupportive parenting forecast diminished TL among young adults in the control condition but not among those who participated in AIM; socioeconomic status risk, life stress, and the use of alcohol and cigarettes at age 17, and blood pressure and body mass index at age 22, were controlled. Subsequent exploratory analyses suggested that AIM-induced reductions in adolescents' anger served as a mediator connecting group assignment to TL. The results suggest that the cellular-level sequelae of nonsupportive parenting and stress are not immutable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting*
  • Telomere Shortening*