Toxic stress of poverty, violence, pain alter kids’ brains

I came upon this article while completing an assignment for my freshman seminar this semester on the social determinants of health. The article discusses the effects that excessive stress has on children as a result of violence, poverty, trauma, and other forms of “prolonged adversity”. The article names this form of stress as “toxic stress syndrome” and describes how it continues to plague children across communities and affect their health and well being over time. This article specifically discusses the toxic stress experienced by children of lower socioeconomic backgrounds and how their health overall compares to that of children of high social standing.

While reading this article I couldn’t help but think back to a major theme of our class discussions these past few weeks which concerns the notion of race as a political construct.  During my read of this article, I found myself  asking whether racism would be considered to be one of the listed traumas that results in the formation of toxic stress syndrome in children? Not only can racism instigate deeply traumatic experiences, but it is also a persisting trauma into adulthood that unfortunately doesn’t end. I believe it would be interesting to explore the effects that racism has on children of color from all socioeconomic backgrounds and then compare the stress levels to see if there is a relationship between racial trauma and “toxic stress syndrome” that develops in children.

Another detail I found important consider that the article itself doesn’t delve deeply into is the question of who is being directly being affected by this toxic stress the most? Who lives in these communities where “prolonged adversity” is a lifestyle due to unequal distribution and access to resources? For most, the answer would be and is consistently people of color. I believe that we can see here how inequality not only distresses people of color through their economic status, but through their health status as well.

3 thoughts on “Toxic stress of poverty, violence, pain alter kids’ brains”

  1. Yes, Yes, Yes. Racism is most definitely a social determinant of health. How can we measure its adverse effects? Epigeneticists think they can measure it through DNA methylation. What’re other ways we can evidence the impact of toxic stress on the body as a result of racism?

  2. This article is especially touching because it shows how so many “adult” subjects and problems trickle down and start to affect children. This trickle down effect lasts a lifetime and causes a destructive cycle that many cannot escape. I think that it is also interesting how research has proven that this environment can severely affect children not only emotionally but also in their education. This further proves that outside factors negatively effect these marginalized people that lead to the inequities within the system. I also think that it is horrible that this type of stress can lead to not only physical illnesses but also mental illnesses. I think that all these factors warrants intervention. By providing resources for these children, illness can be avoided and education can be even more beneficial. Though this is a small gesture, it will help break the cycle of abuse that currently goes on.

  3. Thank you so much for raising the question of how racism affects children! I think you make a great point in your discussion of the missing identifier of whom lives in toxic stress environments. I link that to our very first class (and our review of Afrofuturism) when we discussed the importance of naming things and I perceive that it maybe alludes to the realized racism towards people of color and yet suggests that the awareness of the issue would probably not lead to measures to solve it? It is very ironic that people tend to blame academic performance on intrinsic traits like intelligence and not the factors of the environment: if we don’t change this soon, we are really destined to ”reap what we sow”, namely, continue to face the health detriments by perpetuating inequality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *