Protecting Children From Toxic Stress

Posted on November 6, 2013

Imagine if scientists discovered a toxic substance that increased the risks of cancer, diabetes and heart, lung and liver disease for millions of people. Something that also increased one’s risks for smoking, drug abuse, suicide, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, domestic violence and depression — and simultaneously reduced the chances of succeeding in school, performing well on a job and maintaining stable relationships? It would be comparable to hazards like lead paint, tobacco smoke and mercury. We would do everything in our power to contain it and keep it far away from children. Right?

Well, there is such a thing, but it’s not a substance. It’s been called “toxic stress.” For more than a decade, researchers have understood that frequent or continual stress on young children who lack adequate protection and support from adults, is strongly associated with increases in the risks of lifelong health and social problems, including all those listed above.

First, it’s important to note that toxic stress is not a determinant, but a risk factor. And while prevention is best, it’s never too late to mitigate its effects. It’s also critical to distinguish between “toxic stress” and normal stress. In the context of a reasonably safe environment where children have protective relationships with adults, Shonkoff explains, childhood stress is not a problem. In fact, it promotes healthy growth, coping skills and resilience. It becomes harmful when it is prolonged and when adults do not interact in ways that make children feel safe and emotionally connected.

Click on the link below to read the full article


Category(s):Child and/or Adolescent Issues, Child Development, Parenting, Stress Management

Source material from New York Times


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