Children and Stress

Today we join the American Psychological Association’s Menthal Health Blog Party with a Q&A with Dr. Mary Alvord, a Maryland-based psychologist and member of the APA.

1.      Can you give our readers a little background on how constant or frequent stress impacts children’s health?

Data collected from the 2009 and 2010 Stress in America survey indicates that stress takes a physical toll on kids.  Tweens and teens report that they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep all night, experience headaches and stomach aches or upset stomach, either eat too little or too much in response to stress and feel angry a lot of the time.

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Children exposed to violence is a global epidemic

Tanzania report reveals extent of violence against children

This post from the UK Guardian Poverty Matters Blog, discusses a new breakthrough study conducted in Tanzania and put out by the Muhimbili University in Dar es Salaam and the CDC. Study findings note that close to 75% of all children had been exposed to some type of violence before reaching adulthood. In addition, the researchers note that reports show that violence exposure in childhood can cause numerous social and emotional problems for the rest of the child’s development.

The outcomes of the Tanzanian study also parallel the findings of the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NATSCEV) and The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study which also reiterate that children coming into contact with violence and trauma may experience long-term detrimental  effects, sometimes in spite of their natural resilience. The NATSCEV in particular notes that, “All too often, however, children who are exposed to violence undergo lasting physical, mental, and emotional harm. They suffer from difficulties with attachment, regressive behavior, anxiety and depression, and aggression and conduct problems. They may be more prone to dating violence, delinquency, further victimization, and involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems” (NATSCEV 2).

Finally, several nations are working to address children’s exposure to violence through studies and legislation. In early 2008, Swaziland was the first African country to conduct a survey of the level of violence exposure of women and children. More recently, in June 2011, in Australia a study was released reiterating that the idea, that children exposed to domestic violence are experiencing a form of child abuse, is becoming a more widely accepted thought. Also, early this month Tanzania committed itself to strengthening laws against violence exposure.

Witnessing or directly experiencing violence, especially children, is becoming a widely recognized problem on the international level. Cultural and emotional barriers exist all over the world which inhibit the recognition and treatment of the effects of this exposure, particularly the mental and emotional health of the survivor. This new study demonstrates the ongoing breakdown of the taboos that surround discussion and treatment of this issue. Such progress is the first step in increasing awareness and supporting prevention, and creating a more trauma-informed global society.

Other Related Studies and Links:

Safe Start Center

Research Studies and Reports

UNICEF United Republic of Tanzania

 Violence Against Children: United Nations Secretary-General’s Study

Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Violence Against Children and Young Women in Swaziland

A Brief from UNICEF Swaziland




Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence Against Children Praises Tanzania’s work pioneering work in data and research on violence against children!













Education and training key to child wellbeing

Recognizing and Supporting the Social and Emotional Health of Young Children Birth to Age 5

This training for early childhood mental health consultants, offered by the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development Center’s Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, works to help them more fully explore the family context in which social and emotional learning occurs, so they can help parents support the healthy development of their children and properly care for them in everyday situations.

A recent study on epigenetics and stress demonstrates the necessity of this kind of training. The new study discusses and reiterates the long-held understanding that when a mother is under stress while pregnant, this stress may be the result of (repeated) exposure to a violent or traumatic event, that stress can have a long-term detrimental effect on her child’s health and wellbeing.

The problems caused by the exposure to stress can also carry on into and harm the child’s early youth and adolescent development, especially if whatever was causing the initial distress during the pregnancy is not dealt with or continues to escalate. This information only emphasizes the importance and need for early training and education that can combat the effects of the negative exposure and trauma.

There are also several other available resources that support parents and caregivers in helping their child cope with distressing events such as violence that they may be exposed to as they grow up (i.e. bullying, community violence, domestic violence), disasters & terrorism, or the loss of a loved one.


Silent Realities

In this guide, the authors explain how exposure to violence may disrupt the development of young children ages birth to 5, and the importance of talking with children about traumatic events as a necessary part of the healing process. The authors provide specific recommendations for creating nurturing environments in homes and early care settings to help young children cope.

Healing the Invisible Wounds: Children’s Exposure to Violence (A Guide for Families)

This guide helps parents and caregivers identify if their child has been witness to or experienced violence. Sometimes there may not be clear physical signs, but children often suffer from “invisible wounds” that affect them emotionally and psychologically.

Moving From Evidence to Action: Safe Start Center Series on Children Exposed to Violence
Issue Brief #1: Understanding Children’s Exposure to Violence

This issue brief assists practitioners in understanding the impact of exposure to violence in the development of children as well as the environmental and family factors that may provide a buffer and prevent or reduce the impact of exposure to violence.


Check out the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development’s National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health’s next Webinar:

September 15, 2011, 1:00 – 2:30 PM E.D.T.

A Collaborative Approach to Promoting Social Emotional Well-Being for Children, Youth and Families in the Child Welfare System

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