The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress

Published on Jan 1, 2012in Pediatrics5.359
· DOI :10.1542/PEDS.2011-2663
Jack P. Shonkoff37
Estimated H-index: 37
Andrew S. Garner14
Estimated H-index: 14
in fields of inquiry as diverse as neuroscience, molecular biology, genomics, developmental psychology, epidemiology, sociology, and economics are catalyzing an important paradigm shift in our un- derstanding of health and disease across the lifespan. This converging, multidisciplinary science of human development has profound impli- cations for our ability to enhance the life prospects of children and to strengthen the social and economic fabric of society. Drawing on these multiple streams of investigation, this report presents an ecobiodeve- lopmental framework that illustrates how early experiences and envi- ronmental influences can leave a lasting signature on the genetic predispositions that affect emerging brain architecture and long-term health. The report also examines extensive evidence of the disruptive impacts of toxic stress, offering intriguing insights into causal mech- anisms that link early adversity to later impairments in learning, be- havior, and both physical and mental well-being. The implications of this framework for the practice of medicine, in general, and pediatrics, specifically, are potentially transformational. They suggest that many adultdiseasesshouldbeviewedasdevelopmentaldisordersthatbegin early in life and that persistent health disparities associated with pov- erty, discrimination, or maltreatment could be reduced by the allevi- ation of toxic stress in childhood. An ecobiodevelopmental framework alsounderscoresthe needfornewthinking aboutthe focus andbound- aries of pediatric practice. It calls for pediatricians to serve as both front-line guardians of healthy child development and strategically po- sitioned, community leaders to inform new science-based strategies that build strong foundations for educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, and lifelong health. Pediatrics
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