How Childhood Stress Changes the Brain

September 22, 2014

Studies have found that too much instability during childhood can have a variety of negative outcomes for young people. But why? What exactly is the impact of instability and stress on developing brains?

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently took a closer look at how stress early in life affects the brain. They studied four groups of children:

  • those who had experienced physical abuse
  • those who experienced neglect
  • those from families with low socioeconomic status
  • those who hadn’t experienced any of the above stresses

They found evidence that these chronic stressors may actually limit growth of the parts of the brain involved in memory, learning, and processing emotion—leading to potential health, social, and behavioral problems later in life.

This research highlights the importance of meaningful intervention early in children’s lives to help limit instability and stress that can do real damage. University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers also emphasized that the changes in the brain due to stress aren’t necessarily a life-long sentence . . . if young people receive the right support and opportunities.

tCI programs address multiple aspects of each child’s life in order to counteract these stressors so young people can have healthy bodies, experience academic and professional success, and live in safer communities.

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