Childhood stress has lifetime consequences

Prolonged stress felt in childhood can have consequences that last a lifetime. This is according to Harvard School of Public Health Professor Jack Shonkoff, who is also the Director of the Center on the Developing Child at the learning institute - established in 1922 - and told the Boston Globe that the hormones released through these feelings can impact on healthy brain development.

Professor Shonkoff pointed out these effects can be particularly damaging for young children, but noted early development programmes might prove beneficial for youngsters deemed vulnerable to neglect, abuse and exposure to violence.

These initiatives could help to reduce a child's stress and Professor Shonkoff said: "What's exciting about the biology is it takes it out of the political realm and asks us how it is that poverty and maltreatment result in problems later."

He added this way of looking at the matter can create more ideas for better solutions and does not simply rely on the political arguments already widely heard.

Dr Lucy Maddox, Clinical Psychologist, commented: "Consequences of abuse and neglect are severe and wide-ranging.

"Advances in neurobiological research help us to understand even more how far-reaching the negative effects can be.

"Neurological research into why and how some children are more resilient than others to the effects of abusive experiences in childhood might help us understand which treatments and interventions can help."