Issues and Facts
  • Stress and a Child’s Developing Brain

    Posted on   1/3/2013  12:56 PM

    When you smile at young children and they smile back, have you ever wondered what’s happening in their brains? Or, if they are young toddlers, what would they say if they could talk?

    It turns out that even the simple exchange of a smile is an essential part of a child’s fragile brain development, according to research published by Harvard.

    Plasticity, which is the ability for the brain to reorganize and adapt, is greatest in the first years of life and it decreases with age. So experiences during this time, including simple interaction between children and significant adults in their lives, are critical to the development of children’s brains and their lifelong health.

    The research, which was conducted by a group of neuroscientists and pediatricians, also found that “toxic stress” occurs in the absence of adult support in stressful conditions. Without caring adults to help children cope with tough situations, toxic stress can weaken the architecture of the developing brain, with long-term consequences for learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.

    Many of children of prisoners have experienced these types of stresses.

    Some of them saw their parents arrested and taken away by police. This experience, as well as the continued uncertainty of not knowing what their parents are going through or when they will return, can have a lasting impact on the rest of their lives.

    This is why it’s imperative for children to have contact with their incarcerated parents. When they don’t have contact, they can’t begin healing or coming to terms with the crimes and punishment of their parents.

    Do you agree with this research? Can children really have toxic stress in their lives?

    Share your comments below.


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