Effects of Childhood Stress on Health Across the Lifespan
Stress is an inevitable part of life. Human beings experience stress early, even before they are born. A certain amount of stress is normal and necessary for survival. Stress helps children develop the skills they need to cope with and adapt to new and potentially threatening situations throughoutlife.
Support from parents and/or other concerned caregivers is necessary for children to learn how to respond to stress in a physically and emotionallyhealthy manner.The beneficial aspects of stress diminish when it is severe enough to overwhelma child’s ability to cope effectively. Intensive and prolonged stress can lead to a variety of short- and long-term negative health effects.It can disrupt early brain development and compromise functioning of thenervous and immune systems. In addition, childhood stress can leadto health problems later in life including alcoholism, depression, eatingdisorders, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases.
The purpose of this publication is to summarize the research on childhood stress and its implications for adult health and well-being. Of particular interest is the stress caused by child abuse, neglect, and repeated exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV). We hope this publication provides practitioners, especially those working in violence prevention, with ideas about how to incorporate this information into their work.
The Effects of Childhood Stress on Health Across the Lifespan is a publication of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.