The Toxic Stress of Early Childhood Adversity
Rethinking Health and Education Policy

Summary

Evidence suggests that for the youngest children, prolonged or severe exposure to abuse, neglect and economic hardship – exacerbated by a dearth of stable, supportive relationships with adults – can provoke a “toxic stress response” with lifelong consequences. Such stress may influence brain development and increase the risk for illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. While efforts have been made for decades to intervene early in children’s lives, the results have not always been resounding. This Forum event examined how health and education policies can be both harnessed and revamped to counteract early childhood adversity and included a discussion of a new policy statement, “Early Childhood Adversity, Toxic Stress, and the Role of the Pediatrician: Translating Developmental Science Into Lifelong Health,” issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Watch a brief video about core concepts in early development from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child.

Part of: .

Background Articles

Image Credit: iStockphoto.com/gkomel.