It’s no surprise that your upbringing shapes who you will grow up to be, but a recent study has found that family warmth has more of an effect on your eventual adult health than family wealth.

Wealthy children may have more access to healthcare and nutritious food than poor children, but any health advantage associated with wealth may be completely reversed if the child was not raised in a warm and nurturing household. In particular, the benefits of being raised by a supportive family versus a wealthy family may be more visible once the child reaches middle age, the research found.

"Much research continues to view socioeconomic status and parent-child bonds as highly related or even interchangeable. But in fact they may quite independently influence a child's well-being," explained study author Matthew A. Andersson in a recent statement.

For the study, Andersson analyzed data on disease or poor health of middle-aged adults drawn from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS). The data was based off information relayed by 2,746 respondents ages 25 to 75 in 1995. They also had their “health at midlife” measured, which was defined as being free from 28 possible conditions, among them cancer, circulatory or respiratory disease, endocrine diseases, nervous system diseases, infectious and parasitic diseases, skin or digestive disease and musculoskeletal conditions.

Again 10 year later, 1,692 volunteers were asked follow-up questions and had their health measured. Results of this investigation showed that childhood abuse was able to undermines any protection from disease linked to childhood socioeconomic advantage.

Some of the reasons for the health differences between a rich, cold upbringing and a poor, warm upbringing may come down to a child’s diet. For example, the study suggests that in discordant families, meals may be less coordinated, leading children to overeat and be more likely to eat sugary high-fat snacks in place of actual meals. However this may be only one possible explanation for these results.

"The key takeaway is that without adequate parent-child relationship quality to match, socioeconomic advantage during childhood may not offer much protection at all against major chronic disease as children become adults and reach middle age," concluded Andersson.

Source: Andersson MA. Chronic Disease at Midlife Do Parent-child Bonds Modify the Effect of Childhood SES? Journal of Health and Social Behavior . 2016

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