Toxic Stress and Childhood Development

toxic stressWe all know the feeling. You have a crazy day at work, you get in an argument with a friend, and you lose the car keys. Stress is an inescapable part of life that not only gives you a mental headache, but also causes physical harm to your body. When you feel threatened, your body responds by increasing its heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones.

Your baby can also experience stress. Exposure to conditions such as recurrent abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver mental illness, substance abuse, violence and repeated conflict are all stressful situations that can cause long-term harm to your baby.

Stress over time may damage or weaken the growth of your baby’s brain. Since your baby’s brain is in the early stages of development, there is a greater chance that their brain can have lasting effects on important functions such as handling stress, learning new skills and developing the ability to cope with future hardships.

These are potentially serious effects for your baby. You can avoid these issues by surrounding your baby with adult supports.  Research has shown that when other adults support babies in a community their stress level is brought down to a normal level. Healthy relationships and environments allow for the healthy emotional and physical growth of your baby.

In addition to providing supportive adult relationships for your baby, the most effective prevention of toxic stress is to reduce your baby’s exposure to stressful conditions like the ones listed above.

If you feel you might need assistance in creating a safe environment for your baby at home, 2-1-1 Help Me Grow of Delaware may be able to help.  Dial 2-1-1, send a text message to 302-231-1464 or visit for assistance.