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How childhood stress can impact mental health in adulthood []

How childhood stress can impact mental health in adulthood

by Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch News

Extreme stress and young brains are a bad combination, something that sets in motion feelings and behaviors that can haunt us long into adulthood.

And just in time for the school year, a new study may help explain why.

The Duke University study used neuro-imaging to look at the biological effect of childhood stress on the adult brain. It's important research, because it parallels existing knowledge about the relationship of stress to unhealthy behavior.

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This is an important article and the research is vital. Several things worry me however. I think we must stop using terms like "stress" when children are exposed to abusive adult acts: neglect, addiction etc. Stress is inaccurate in these circumstances and lets adults off the hook for their failure to properly care for children. Another thing that worries me: there is talk of "home" and "neighbourhood" which are important, but a child spends more time at school than in either. There is a need at school for a healthy, safe, non-abusive environment and it is the place where a certain amount of healing can happen even if home lives or neighbourhoods are harmful places for children. Finally, this article addresses the vulnerability of young children's brains, but recent neuroscientific studies show the adolescent brain is equally vulnerable. So all of the significant insights this researcher is having might actually apply to children who previously we've expected to be safer and stronger. So much to learn. So many kids at risk. 

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