Advances in scientific research of a child’s brain development suggest that high levels of “toxic stress” in early childhood affect a child’s development, ability to learn, and lifelong physical and mental health.
Risk factors for a child experiencing toxic stress include (but are not limited to) maternal depression, parental substance abuse, domestic violence, poor social connectedness, and food scarcity.
While not all children who experience these conditions in childhood go on to have difficulties later in life, they are certainly at risk. Some children have buffers in place to offset the stress in their lives. Pediatricians are being encouraged to screen families for risk factors of toxic stress and to provide community resources as appropriate to ensure that these buffers are in place. If your family is in crisis and you are concerned that your child is at risk, perhaps an honest talk with your child’s pediatrician is a good place to start in getting the help your child needs.