Impacts of Stress in Childhood

Research finds that going through tough times as a kid can have a developmental impact on the brain. In the studies (referenced below), the adult brains of people who were raised in a stressful environment before the age of six were smaller than the brains of adults who had a less stressful childhood. This result was also impacted by the child’s ability to cope with the stress. Often if the child had no means of releasing stress they would internalize the stresses experienced years earlier – ruminating and bottling up emotions.

This internalizing from childhood stress before the age of six leads to depression and anxiety into teenage and adult years.

It is impossible to avoid stress, but there are ways to help your child combat the daily stresses of life and also cope with any trauma that may have occurred resulting in chronic stress.

Here are 3 tips for helping your child create a healthy balance with stress:


If your child is going through a stressful time or a major life event, schedule them a visit with a counselor to discuss their feelings and to learn healthy ways to cope with stress.

Healthy diet

Getting enough well-balanced meals and snacks is important for all aspects of health and is needed for healthy brain development. To learn more about dietary recommendations schedule a visit with your doctor or dietitian.


Physical exercise daily has been shown to help boost mood and is a healthy way to cope with stress. It is recommended that children get at least 1 hour of play each day, more importantly -outdoor play.


Written by Dr. Threasa Andrys, Naturopathic Medicine

To learn more about the effects of stress on children, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrys.


Studies Referenced

Qijing Yu, Ana M. Daugherty, Dana M. Anderson, Mayu Nishimura, David Brush, Amanda Hardwick, William Lacey, Sarah Raz and Noa Ofen, Socioeconomic status and hippocampal volume in children and young adults, Developmental Science, 21, 3, (2017).
Natalie H. Brito, Luciane R. Piccolo and Kimberly G. Noble, Associations between cortical thickness and neurocognitive skills during childhood vary by family socioeconomic factors, Brain and Cognition, 116, (54), (2017).
Shari R. Waldstein, Gregory A. Dore, Christos Davatzikos, Leslie I. Katzel, Rao Gullapalli, Stephen L. Seliger, Theresa Kouo, William F. Rosenberger, Guray Erus, Michele K. Evans and Alan B. Zonderman, Differential Associations of Socioeconomic Status With Global Brain Volumes and White Matter Lesions in African American and White Adults, Psychosomatic Medicine, 79, 3, (327), (2017).

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