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Toxic Stress Associated with Poverty

In small amounts, and when children have the right support, stress can be a positive boost. It can help children rise to a challenge. It can help them push toward goals, focus their effort, and meet deadlines. This kind of positive stress allows children to build the inner strengths and skills known as resilience.

When difficult life events lead to stress that lasts for more than a few weeks, it’s called chronic stress. Repeated exposures to adverse childhood experiences, stress or adversity that is too intense, serious, long-lasting, or sudden can overwhelm a child’s ability to cope. Especially when they do not have a break from the stress or when they have a lack of support.

For children living in poverty, however, living in impoverished and unhealthy conditions overwhelm a child’s stress response systems, causing what has been referred to as “toxic stress”.

Toxic stressors are those associated with poverty, food insecurity, unstable housing and many more. They disrupt the delicate process of brain development in children and alter the typical trajectory of brain development, leading to poor mental and physical health.

Fortunately, science has long shown that nurturing relationships with parents and other significant adults in children's lives can prevent toxic stress from occurring in the face of childhood adversity.

Caring family relationships represent one of the most stable and consistent contributors to childhood resilience.

However, if parents themselves are under excessive financial and emotional stress to make ends meet everyday...what happens to the compromised growth of their children under the toxic stress?

Source: ARBA Foundation

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