The biological embedding of early-life socioeconomic status and family adversity in children's genome-wide DNA methylation

Epigenomics. 2018 Nov;10(11):1445-1461. doi: 10.2217/epi-2018-0042. Epub 2018 Oct 23.


Aim: To examine variation in child DNA methylation to assess its potential as a pathway for effects of childhood social adversity on health across the life course.

Materials & methods: In a diverse, prospective community sample of 178 kindergarten children, associations between three types of social experience and DNA methylation within buccal epithelial cells later in childhood were examined.

Results: Family income, parental education and family psychosocial adversity each associated with increased or decreased DNA methylation (488, 354 and 102 sites, respectively) within a unique set of genomic CpG sites. Gene ontology analyses pointed to genes serving immune and developmental regulation functions.

Conclusion: Findings provided support for DNA methylation as a biomarker linking early-life social experiences with later life health in humans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Female
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Socioeconomic Factors*