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September 2021Vol. 22, No. 8Center on the Developing Child Releases Guide to Toxic Stress

Children and families involved with child welfare often experience or have experienced extended periods of stress and anxiety. Trauma from maltreatment, removal from their families, and adjusting to out-of-home care can greatly affect a child's mental health and development as well as their learning and behavior across their lifespan.

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University released a guide to help families that may be stressed learn about what toxic stress is and how to ameliorate its effects on their mental and physical health. The guide is divided into the following sections:

  • Toxic Stress 101: This section explains toxic stress and how it is different from other types of stress. It links readers to information on how toxic stress affects healthy development and provides information on the link between toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences.
  • The Science and Social Causes of Toxic Stress: This section explains what happens in the brain and body as part of the toxic stress response and what can cause it. It links readers to a paper that discusses what happens when children experience severe, prolonged adversity without adult support; a short video that explains why significant neglect is so harmful in the earliest years of life; and another video that focuses on the social and behavioral factors that play a role in triggering toxic stress for children and adults. 
  • Preventing and Addressing Toxic Stress: This section focuses on developing resilience and features several articles about tackling toxic stress.
To access the guide and its resources, visit the webpage A Guide to Toxic Stress on the Center for the Developing Child website.