Toxic Stress and Children's Outcomes, by By Leila Morsy and Richard Rothstein

According to: Economic Policy Insititute

African American children growing up poor are at greater risk of disrupted physiological functioning and depressed academic achievement

Executive summary

“Stress” is a commonplace term for hormonal changes that occur in response to frightening or threatening events or conditions. When severe, these changes are termed “toxic” stress and can impede children’s behavior, cognitive capacity, and emotional and physical health.

Frightening or threatening situations are more sustained and are experienced more frequently by African American and socially and economically disadvantaged children, who also have less access to protective resources that can mitigate their stress to tolerable levels. This report describes the relative frequency of toxic stress by race and social class, and shows how it depresses children’s outcomes and contributes to the “achievement gap.” We conclude by suggesting policy and practice recommendations that can reduce the cognitive, behavioral, and health harm that toxic stress provokes.

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