Low childhood subjective social status and telomere length in adulthood: The role of attachment orientations

Dev Psychobiol. 2018 Apr;60(3):340-346. doi: 10.1002/dev.21601. Epub 2018 Feb 16.

Abstract

Low subjective social status (SSS) in childhood places one at greater risk of a number of health problems in adulthood. Theoretical and empirical evidence indicates that exposure to supportive parenting may buffer the negative effects of low childhood SSS on adult health. Given the importance of supportive caregivers and close others for the development of attachment orientations throughout the lifespan, attachment theory may be important for understanding why some individuals are resilient to the negative effects of low childhood SSS on adult health while others are not. We examined if attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance altered the association between childhood subjective social status (SSS) and length of telomeres in white blood cells in adulthood. Shorter telomere length is associated with increased risk of age-related diseases including cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Participants (N = 128) completed self-report measures of childhood SSS and attachment orientations, as well as a blood draw. We found that among those with low childhood SSS, low attachment anxiety was associated with longer telomere length in white blood cells in comparison to high attachment anxiety controlling for participant age, sex, race, body mass index, and adult SSS. Among those with high childhood SSS, low attachment anxiety was associated with a slight decrease in telomere length. Attachment avoidance was unrelated to length of telomeres. Such findings provide further evidence for the role that close relationships may have on buffering SSS related health disparities.

Keywords: attachment orientations; childhood; close relationships; subjective social status; telomere length.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Adverse Events*
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear
  • Male
  • Object Attachment*
  • Social Class*
  • Telomere Shortening / physiology*
  • Telomere*
  • Young Adult