Breaking Through: Video and User’s Guide to Understand and Address Toxic Stress


Understanding Toxic Stress and Resilience: Video SeriesOngoing research continues to show us how adversity and toxic stress in early childhood can have a negative impact throughout a person’s life. Toxic stress can impact a child’s health, behavior, and ability to learn. These two videos appeal to Head Start staff and health care professionals. They are designed to help them understand what toxic stress is, what it does to a person, and easy things to do to help prevent it.

Source: Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, National Center on Health

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Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress: A Review of Ecological, Biological, and Developmental Studies of Self-Regulation and Stress 


This is the second in a series of four inter-related reports titled Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress. The first report, Foundations for Understanding Self-Regulation from an Applied Developmental Perspective, provides a comprehensive framework for understanding self-regulation in context, using a theoretical model that reflects the influence of biology, caregiving, and the environment on the development of self-regulation. This report, A Review of Ecological, Biological, and Developmental Studies of Self-Regulation and Stress, provides a cross-disciplinary review on research of the relationship between stress and self-regulation. The third report, A Comprehensive Review of Self-Regulation Interventions from Birth through Young Adulthood, will describe the strength of evidence for interventions to promote self-regulation for universal and targeted populations across development. The fourth and final report, Implications for Programs and Practice, will consider implications of findings from the prior reports for programs supported by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). In the present report, the authors introduce and describe a set of seven key principles that summarize our understanding of self-regulation development in context.

Available here: Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress

Citation: Hamoudi, A., Murray, D. W., Sorensen, L., & Fontaine, A. (2015). Self-regulation and toxic stress: A review of ecological, biological, and developmental studies of self-regulation and stress. OPRE Report #2015-30. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Source: FPG Child Development Institute

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Expelled in preschool


CHICAGO — A few years ago, 4-year-old Danny was on the verge of being expelled from a Chicago preschool for violent behavior when a woman named Lauren Wiley was called in to help.

She met with the boy’s teacher, who thought he needed to be medicated for attention deficit disorder. But as Wiley listened, the teacher admitted she was angry at Danny, whose name has been changed to protect his identity. Her job was to keep her students safe, she said, and the boy’s aggression made her feel like a failure. Next, Wiley and the teacher met with Danny’s mom. As the teacher dropped her judgmental attitude, it came out that Danny had watched his father beat his mother and get taken away in handcuffs. No one had ever talked to the child about what he saw. He did not have ADD. He was reeling from trauma, and he needed his teacher to like him and want to help him, not to be rid of him. That began to happen when she heard his story.

Wiley is an early childhood mental health consultant. The job title often evokes an image of a baby on a couch talking to a therapist, but her work is about listening to adults so they can create an emotionally healthy environment for children. She trains teachers and others who work with young children to recognize the trauma that so often causes misbehavior. She supports them in confronting cultural biases and forging relationships with parents. She shows them how to recognize families’ strengths and promote mental wellness before problems develop. This is particularly significant since we know that “adverse childhood experiences” like violence and family dysfunction predict everything from academic failure to cancer to heart disease.

Source: The Hechinger Report

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Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience


Science shows that children who do well despite serious hardship have had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult. These relationships buffer children from developmental disruption and help them develop “resilience,” or the set of skills needed to respond to adversity and thrive. This working paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child explains how protective factors in a child’s social environment and body interact to produce resilience, and discusses strategies that promote healthy development in the face of trauma.

Source: Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University

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Glass Half Full: The Bright Side of ACEs Research


In recent months, it seems as if the public, and policymakers, have caught on to the science on adverse childhood experiences ACEs, aka “toxic stress” in a big way. The list of prestigious organizations and government entities collecting and reporting on ACEs data, providing summaries of the science, and implementing trauma-informed interventions include the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Harvard University, at least18 states, the city of Philadelphia—and Child Trends.*

Why is this new research about ACEs important?

  1.  It bridges the divide between the biological and the psychological. Many of the old and often stigmatizing distinctions between “mental” and “physical” health just don’t make sense here. The research on toxic stress, particularly as it affects children, reveals how experience modifies the brain and other body systems immune response, hormone activity. Chronic early stress alters children’s emotional responses, their impulse control, and their attentional and decision-making processes. It puts them at risk, in adulthood, for cardiovascular disease, obesity, substance abuse, and depression, as well as early death. Thanks to this research, we’re poised to take a more holistic view of wellness.
  2. It reinforces the importance of child-caregiver relationships. The ray of hope in this new knowledge is that a child’s safe, stable, and nurturing relationship with a caregiver plays a buffering role against these toxic effects. Good parenting or, when that’s lacking, sensitive care from another adult can protect children from the harms they might otherwise incur from overwhelming stress, or even, in some cases, can help undo the effects of prior trauma. Relationships matter.
  3. It recasts much of the old debate about poverty. Do you explain poverty as mainly the result of a number of unfavorable circumstances beyond one’s control, or do you ascribe it primarily to personal failings of one sort or another? The research on ACEs and the toxic stress they can create doesn’t resolve that debate, but it most certainly offers a different and potentially more productive frame for thinking about poverty. Living in poverty, we know now, frequently causes an accumulation of stress that becomes toxic. As surely as smoking or obesity, chronic poverty damages health—now, and in the future. Moreover, when it also handicaps cognitive and emotional functions, it becomes harder for the poor to escape poverty.
  4. It puts a new spotlight on the toll violence takes on our society. The ACEs research makes it clear that violence—both directly experienced, and witnessed—is both pernicious in its effects, and is a too-common experience of children. Violence is toxic. Children are wired to recoil from it and, when they cannot, they respond in ways that damage their health and blunt their capacities. It is the responsibility of adults to protect children from violence wherever it may occur, starting at home. It’s a need on a par with their needs for adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care.

Fortunately, as we learn more about toxic stress, research is also progressing about how to mend the damage it wreaks on children. However, that’s not always reversible. The clearest message here is prevention.

Source: Child Trends

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Baby E-lert, Sharing Information on the Quality Care of Infants, Toddlers, and their Families


This Baby E-lert presents two health and safety resources relevant to promoting best practices for caring for infants and toddlers.  Also included are a parenting program for mothers and an article on observation. Share them with co-workers, families, and other early care professionals in your community!

Source: Early Head Start National Resource Center

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Understanding Toxic Stress in Young Children

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Pacific
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Mountain
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Central
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Eastern

Sponsored by:
Healthy Child Care America

Expert Presenter:
Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD

The Understanding Toxic Stress in Young Children webinar provides current information on toxic stress in early childhood, recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics on helping early brain development, and available resources.

Please join Healthy Child Care America and the Building Bridges Among Health and Early Childhood Systems program for an overview on

  • The importance of early brain and child development
  • How positive relationships can help children develop
  • The negative effects of stress on children
  • The 5 Rs of early childhood education

This webinar is free and will be recorded and posted to the Webinars Web page,, for those who cannot attend the live webinar. * One contact hour of continuing education for child care providers can be earned by attending this webinar. Due to tracking limitations, credit can only be earned by attending the LIVE webinar. Credit cannot be earned by viewing the webinar on the Web following the April 22nd presentation.

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. For providers attending the webinar as a group, the center director can access a participation confirmation form by going to the HCCA Web site, on which they can verify the attendance of the center’s respective employees after completion of the webinar.

Source: Healthy Child Care America

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The Spectrum of Neglect: Four Types of Unresponsive Care


Using science as a guide, this interactive chart delineates four types of diminished responsiveness and their consquences in order to provide a useful framework for developing more effective strategies to protect vulnerable children from this complex challenge. The four short video clips below, each under a minute in length, are excerpts from the 6-minute video InBrief: The Science of Neglect. The chart is based on a graphic from The Science of Neglect: The Persistent Absence of Responsive Care Disrupts the Developing Brain, a Working Paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child.

Source: Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University

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The Impact of Trauma and Toxic Stress on Infant and Toddler Development Webinar


Early Head Start caregivers, teachers, and parents are central in the lives of infants and toddlers who have experienced toxic stress. In this webinar, panelists discuss the impact of trauma and toxic stress on brain and social-emotional growth. Strategies for adults to use in supporting very young children are also discussed.

Source: Early Head Start National Resource Center

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Tackling Toxic Stress


“Tackling Toxic Stress,” a multi-part series of journalistic articles planned and commissioned by the Center, examines how policymakers, researchers, and practitioners in the field are re-thinking services for children and families based on the science of early childhood development and an understanding of the consequences of adverse early experiences and toxic stress.

The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child created the categories of positive, tolerable and toxic stress to help describe the body’s stress response and its varied effects on health, learning, and behavior.

Stories in the series describe how broader understanding of toxic stress has affected the programs and strategies of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the federal government, academic researchers, community agencies, and others.

Source: Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University

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