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Advisory Committee Chair

Sylvie Mrug

Advisory Committee Members

Stella Aslibekyan

Burel Goodin

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2021

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Children from low socioeconomic status (SES) families are at a greater risk of negative health outcomes in adulthood, in part from chronic stress. The chronic stress of these experiences may become biologically embedded through DNA methylation in stress-related genes. However, the effects of specific SES dimensions during childhood or adolescence on later epigenetic profiles in adulthood are not well understood. The present study examined the roles of two objective SES dimensions and two subjective SES dimensions experienced in early adolescence in DNA methylation in young adulthood. The analyses focused on two genes, NR3C1 and SLC6A4, because their methylation has been implicated in regulating the stress response. Participants included 191 young adults from the Birmingham Youth Violence Study who provided data in early adolescence (Mage = 13.1), late adolescence (Mage = 17.7), and young adulthood (Mage = 26.4). They included 62% females, 86% African Americans, and 13% European Americans. Family SES was measured in early adolescence with parent reports of household income, parental education, perceived social status in their community, and financial hardship. DNA methylation beta values were measured in young adulthood using salivary DNA. The unique relationships between objective and subjective SES indicators and DNA methylation were tested with hierarchical linear regressions, adjusting for age in young adulthood, sex, ethnicity, and smoking during late adolescence and young adulthood. Bonferroni correction for multiple testing was applied. The delta R2 value when the SES variables were added in the model ranged from .04 to .96. With Bonferroni correction, the addition of the objective and subjective SES markers did not significantly affect delta R2 (p <.0003).

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