By Marilyn Elias
Thursday, March 18, 1999
VANCOUVER, British Columbia Children and teens who seem awfully angry for their tender years also show the biological signs of strain on their hearts, suggests a study to be presented today.
Hostile adults are known to have a higher-than-average share of risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease. This pattern seems to start as early as 8 years old, says Kristen Salomon of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Scholl. Salomon will speak at the meeting here of the American Psychosomatic Society.
"Parents should realize their kids may need help in dealing with their anger," Salomon says. "Dont just assume its a harmless phase."
Study participants were 123 healthy children 8 to 10 years old and 78 teens ages 15 to 17. Salomon compared the participants resting blood pressure, blood fat and glucose levels with how their cardiovascular systems responded during laboratory tasks known to be stressful.
Researchers also measured the youngsters body fat and administered personality tests that showed the kids levels of hostility.
Youngsters with two or more cardiac risk factorsfor example, high blood pressure and low levels of HSL, the "good cholesterol"rated significantly higher in hostility than children with less cardiac risk.
But what comes first, the hostility or the physical signs linked to it?
This study doesnt prove anger causes the biological reactions. But treatments that reduce hostility and foster relaxation in adults have been found to improve risk factors such as high blood pressure.
Hostile children seldom develop in total isolation from their family patterns, says pediatrician Mark Wolraich, director of the child development division at Vanderbilt Medical School in Nashville.
"They may be experiencing anger at home or perhaps have inherited a temperament, but frequently the home environment is involved," Wolraich says. Parents may need help themselves to help children channel their anger constructively, he adds.