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

  • Author(s): Bush, Nicole R;
  • Edgar, Rachel D;
  • Park, Mina;
  • MacIsaac, Julia L;
  • McEwen, Lisa M;
  • Adler, Nancy E;
  • Essex, Marilyn J;
  • Kobor, Michael S;
  • Boyce, W Thomas
  • et al.


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.


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.


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

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