The emotional and social lives of families influence children's health with lasting effects evident in adult morbidity and mortality. In particular, ovet family conflict and anger, deficient nurturing, and family relationships that are cold and unsupportive - so-called """"""""risky"""""""" characteristics - are associated with poor health. Still missing from the research literature are tests of specific biological pathways through which risky families impact health, particularly at the level of the cell, although a likely candidate is inflammatory biology. The proposed study will utilize data collected as part of our UCLA Families and Health Study to test links between risky family environments and enhanced innate immune responses to infection, termed a proinflammatory phenotype. We will examine the proinflammatory phenotype at the cellular level, focusing on expression of inflammation-related genes in leukocytes. Blood samples were collected from parents and a target child between 9 - 13 years of age in 47 families. During the annual cold/flu season, parents and the target child completed stressful life event interviews and participated in an 8-week daily diary study assessing family interactions, daily events in the child's life, and child mood, behavior, URI symptoms, and health behaviors. URI symptoms were monitored for an additional 8 weeks after the 8-week diary. Saliva was sampled 4 times/day during 4 days in week 3 and 6 for salivary cortisol. Suspected URIs were clinically verified by trained personnel during home visits. Following the diary phase we obtained blood samples from parents and the target child. This project will examine gene expression in leukocytes using cutting-edge social genomics approaches. The use of daily diary methodology in this study addresses an important gap in the literature by permitting the examination of daily variations in family environments and their effects on inflammatory gene expression.

Public Health Relevance

Why does growing up in a home characterized by more anger and conflict or a lack of warmth and support predict poorer health later in life? We propose that in children and adults, risky family environments influence the expression of genes that regulate inflammation. Importantly, we examine relationships between daily family environments and gene expression.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Developmental Biology Subcommittee (CHHD)
Program Officer
Haverkos, Lynne
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of California Los Angeles
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Los Angeles
United States
Zip Code
Robles, Theodore F; Repetti, Rena L; Reynolds, Bridget M et al. (2018) Family environments and leukocyte transcriptome indicators of a proinflammatory phenotype in children and parents. Dev Psychopathol 30:235-253
Rentscher, Kelly E; Carroll, Judith E; Repetti, Rena L et al. (2018) Chronic stress exposure and daily stress appraisals relate to biological aging marker p16INK4a. Psychoneuroendocrinology 102:139-148
Holt-Lunstad, Julianne; Robles, Theodore F; Sbarra, David A (2017) Advancing social connection as a public health priority in the United States. Am Psychol 72:517-530