07/21/2017 10:42 EDT | Updated 07/21/2017 10:43 EDT

Kids Who Don't Have Dads Are Biologically Different Than Others

It shows right in their cells.

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Fathers can have plenty of influence on a child's life, but a new study shows that the lack of a dad can actually change your cell structure.

In a research paper published in the journal Pediatrics, scientists looked at 2,420 nine-year-old children from across the U.S. and assessed their telomere length, as well as any changes in genes affected by serotonin and dopamine.

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Telomeres, according to T.A. Sciences, are the protectors at the end of our DNA strands that maintain our chromosomes and help them remain intact. With age, as well as stress, telomeres have been found to become damaged or frayed. In the case of kids whose dads are not in the home, they were found to be significantly shorter.

According to the study, when dads have died, there's a 16 per cent reduction in length, while for those whose dads are in jail, it's 10 per cent. Kids whose parents are split due to separation and/or divorce had a six per cent change.

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The report noted, however, that some of these effects could be attributed to a change in finances, which of course often goes hand-in-hand with the loss of a father.

Other studies have shown that adult children are not immune to the effects of losing a parent, though most of those focus on death, rather than other circumstances.

Grown-ups who have lost parents are also more likely to suffer from psychological distress and poorer physical health.

According to an American Sociological Review study from 1994, grown-ups who have lost parents are more likely to suffer from psychological distress and poorer physical health.

So what does this all mean for kids who obviously can't change whether or not their dad is around? Parents and schools need to remember that the effects of these circumstances can last a lifetime — and that good role models and support can help with the healing.

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