The Embody Study

Hannah Pearl Kostoff


As a research assistant for the EMBODY study I worked with young women who had experienced intimate partner violence. Additionally, the types of long-term effects due to these experiences of violence were investigated. More than half of adolescents report engaging in an intimate relationship. As many as a third include some form of abusive or controlling behavior. More specifically, teen dating violence (TDV) affects 65% of women. Little is known about the biobehavioral impact of TDV. Among adult women cellular-level changes have been shown in those who experienced intimate partner violence and affected women exhibit long-term chronic health problems. The goal of the EMBODY study is to examine relationships among epigenetic alterations, acquired chromosomal changes, biologic stress measures, and biobehavioral characteristics in identical twin pairs who are discordant for an experience of TDV. Using a classical discordant twin study design we sought to examine biobehavioral and chromosomal-level differences. We investigated whether TDV could act as an agent of allostatic loading. The sample included female monozygotic twins aged 18-21, who were discordant for an experience of TDV. McEwen’s allostatic loading model was used to examine the effects of individual and environmental cofactors among women exposed to TDV. Surveys were used to assess individual and environmental characteristics, TDV experiences, sleep status, exercise habits, social support, perceived daily stress, depressive and trauma symptoms. Also, waist-height ratios and peripheral blood samples were collected. Serum analyses were used to quantify mean telomere length, acquired chromosomal instability, and acquired genome-wide DNA methylation changes. Data analysis is ongoing and will begin to elucidate the relationships between and among the survey and cellular-level datasets. Cellular-level findings are pending. The incidence and prevalence of depression and other problematic behavioral problems appears higher than those in the general population. 


Teen Dating Violence, Cellular Aging, Telomeres

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