Stress and Early Childhood Brain Development

May 17, 2011
Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality

The Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty has an interesting article on their website titled "Building a Foundation for Prosperity on the Science of Early Childhood Development, by Jack Shonkoff, M.D.  Quoting the article, "Toxic stress refers to strong, frequent, and/or prolonged activation of the body's stress-response systems in the absence of the buffering protection of stable adult support. Major risk factors include recurrent physical and/or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, severe maternal depression, parental substance abuse, and family violence, with or without the additional burdens of deep poverty. Toxic stress disrupts brain architecture, adversely affects other organs, and leads to stress-management systems that establish relatively lower thresholds for responsiveness that persist throughout life, thereby increasing the risk of stress-related disease or disorder as well as cognitive impairment well into the adult years."