Tackling Toxic Stress,” a multi-part series of journalistic articles planned and commissioned by the Center, examines how policymakers, researchers, and practitioners in the field are re-thinking services for children and families based on the science of early childhood development and an understanding of the consequences of adverse early experiences and toxic stress.

The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child created the categories of positive, tolerable and toxic stress to help describe the body's stress response and its varied effects on health, learning, and behavior. 

Stories in the series describe how broader understanding of toxic stress has affected the programs and strategies of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the federal government, academic researchers, community agencies, and others. 



Pediatricians Take on Toxic StressPediatricians Take On Toxic Stress

A growing body of scientific evidence about the power of severe childhood stress to weaken brain architecture and damage lifelong health is prompting leading pediatricians to call for a seismic shift in pediatric primary care. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which represents 60,000 physicians, is planning a comprehensive public health strategy to identify and reduce toxic stress in their youngest patients. They see this not only as a way to improve their patients’ health across the lifespan, but also as a means of improving the nation’s health—and economy. Read more >>



Listening to a Baby's BrainListening to a Baby’s Brain: Changing the Pediatric Checkup to Reduce Toxic Stress

Listening to a baby’s heartbeat. Examining a toddler’s ears. Testing a preschooler for exposure to lead. These critical screenings have long been the hallmarks of early childhood checkups. Now, leading pediatricians are recommending major changes to the checkups of the future. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wants primary care doctors to screen their youngest patients for social and emotional difficulties that could be early signs of toxic stress. Read more >>



Innovating in Early Head StartInnovating in Early Head Start: Can Reducing Toxic Stress Improve Outcomes for Young Children?

How can families in the most difficult circumstances be supported to give children the best chance to succeed? Federal administrators of the Early Head Start program for young children and families think addressing the sources of toxic stress may be the answer. Recognizing the potential benefits to society—and potential improvements in outcomes for the families they serve—the U.S. Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has launched a trailblazing research effort to find more effective ways to enhance child development in the nation’s poorest families. Read more >>



Using Science to Drive New Approaches to Child WelfareUsing Science to Drive New Approaches to Child Welfare

The federal Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), is seizing on the science of early childhood development to integrate social and emotional well-being into its longstanding emphasis on ensuring safety and permanent placements for children who may be experiencing abuse or neglect. To do so, officials at the highest levels are authorizing waivers from rules for states who qualify and making grants to state and local governments, universities, and community nonprofits willing to try to improve services in ways that not only minimize toxic stress but also generate lessons for the field. Read more >>



Pushing Toward Breakthroughs: Using Innovative Practice to Address Toxic StressPushing Toward Breakthroughs: Using Innovative Practice to Address Toxic Stress

Using the expanding scientific evidence about the long-term, damaging effects of toxic stress, a small but growing group of forward-thinking social service practitioners are trying innovative approaches that target its root causes and could lead to breakthroughs in the effectiveness of interventions—for both children and their caregivers. Read more >>