Studies suggest that telomere lengths, a biomarker of aging, could also capture the physiological weathering attributable to poor health behaviors and adverse experiences, particularly those experienced in early life. For these reasons, we propose that telomere lengths may be a pivotal biomarker for measuring the heightened susceptibility to illness resulting from the cumulative exposure to acculturation to the US culture. This binational study used an Actor–Partner Interdependence Model to test if maternal acculturation to the US moderates the cross-sectional associations of telomere lengths with percentage of body fat (PBF) among Mexican women, among their children, and the intergenerational associations of mother and children telomere lengths with each other's PBF. Low income Mexican child–mother dyads (n ​= ​108 dyads) were recruited to participate in this cross-sectional study in Mexico and the US. The pooled dataset included measurements of maternal acculturation to the US, mother and children's salivary telomere lengths, PBF measured through bioelectrical impedance, and demographic characteristics. Results showed that the influences of maternal acculturation in the associations of telomere lengths with PBF were different for mothers and their children: Among mothers with higher maternal acculturation to the US, longer salivary telomere lengths were associated with lower PBF. In contrast, among mothers with lower maternal acculturation to the US, salivary telomere lengths were not associated with PBF. There were no significant associations between children's salivary telomere lengths and PBF, and the null associations did not vary across different levels of maternal acculturation to the US. Future longitudinal studies are needed to determine whether acculturation to the US (experienced through immigration or remotely) influences the association of telomere length attrition with obesity risks among immigrant and non-immigrant Mexican children and adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100029
JournalComprehensive Psychoneuroendocrinology
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Acculturation
  • Mexican mothers
  • Mexican children
  • Percentage of body fat
  • Child–mother dyads
  • Salivary telomeres lengths
  • Dyadic analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Immunology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems


Dive into the research topics of 'From culture to chromosomes: A mother-child dyadic study of acculturation, telomere lengths and body fat'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this