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Certain Parenting Styles Lower Inflammation in Kids

Update Date: Jul 21, 2014 06:41 PM EDT

Certain parenting styles could help prevent inflammatory diseases in children, according to a new study.

Investigators at the Northwestern University found that a specific intervention strategy that focuses on strengthening family bonds can significantly reduce inflammation in low-income children. Researchers said the findings are important because inflammation, or chronic over activation of the immune system, could lead to a host of health conditions.

What's more, children from poor backgrounds often experience inflammation and poorer health at all stages of life than their wealthier counterparts. For instance, children of lower socioeconomic status often experience lower birth weights, and higher rates of heart problems and cancer.

"Many health problems in both childhood and adulthood involve excessive inflammation," researcher Gregory E. Miller, professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, said in a news release. "The process has a role in diabetes, heart disease, allergies and some cancers."

The latest study involved families living in small, rural areas in Georgia. Researchers noted that 90 percent of the families were from low-income backgrounds.

Researchers said that around 170 families went through a seven-week training program, which focused on improving parenting, enhancing communication between parents and children, and helping children develop strategies for coping with stress, racism and peer pressure to engage in risky behaviors.

Miller and his team focused mainly on mothers and each mother's 11-year-old child. Researchers then collected children's blood samples when they turned 19. They found that children who had participants in the training program had significantly less inflammation than those in the control group. The study revealed lower levels in at least six different indicators of inflammation.

"We also found that the training was most successful in reducing inflammation in families who came from the most disadvantaged neighborhoods," Miller said. "The study is also novel in its focus on families who are at high risk for health problems relative to other Americans."

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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