Child stress, adult disease
Beating children can make them very sick.
Stress is an inevitable part of life.
children can make those very same children sick. Yes, as
children, we know that. The new news is that beating them
in childhood can make them sick as adults. That means you,
because most Trinidadians and Tobagonians adults have been
beaten and beaten bad many times in their childhood.
It makes big-bellied, macho men of us, mature, deep-thinkers
who care immensely for our children and show it by beating
them whenever we get a chance to visit their mothers for
a night or so and if the mothers dont watch out, we
go beat them, too.
Sick children, sick adults
These are the results of the largest study ever done on
this topic, The Effects of Childhood Stress on Health
Across the Life Span, by the US Department of Health
& Human Services, Centre for Disease Control & Prevention,
better known as the CDC, the Sanctus sanctorum
of medical research in the USA.
Over 17,000 adults participated in the study, recently published.
Some of the most titillating results were that 25 per cent
of women and 16 per cent of men reported being sexually
abused as children. Physical abuse, 27 per cent for women
and 30 per cent for males. An average of 12 per cent of
adults reported having seen their mothers being repeatedly
and violently beaten.
The likelihood of an adverse health outcome in an adult
being associated with early child abuse increased as the
age of first molestation decreased and as the frequency,
duration and intensity increased.
Stress down the line!
The thing is, stress is an inevitable part of life. Humans
experience stress early, even before they are born. It helps
children develop the skills they need to cope with and adapt
to new and potentially threatening situations throughout
A certain amount of stress is normal and necessary for survival
and success. This kind of stress helps children develop
the necessary skills to grow into mature adults, capable
of voting with their minds and not with their hair. Support
from parents or other concerned and caring adults, familial
or otherwise, is necessary for children to learn how to
respond in a physically and emotionally healthy manner.
The beneficial aspects of stress diminish when it is severe
enough to overwhelm a childs ability to cope effectively.
Stress causes visible and invisible reactions in humans.
The most common observable reaction is an increase in your
heart rate and your blood pressure. This is caused by the
secretion of stress hormones, especially cortisone
and cortisone has the ability to affect the brain especially
the developing brain.
There are three types of stress. Positive stress results
from adverse experiences that are short-lived, for example,
attending a day-care centre for the first time, getting
a shot in the health centre, having a toy taken away or
just meeting new people. All the child may experience is
a transient increase in heart rate and minor perturbation
in his or her hormone levels.
Tolerable stress refers to adverse experiences that are
more intense but still relatively short-lived. Examples
include the death of a loved one, a frightening accident
or a family disruption, such as a fight in the bedroom or
a divorce. If the child has the support of a caring adult,
tolerable stress can usually be overcome, no matter the
age of the child.
Toxic stress results from intense adverse experiences that
are sustained over a long period of time, months or years.
The typical example is child abuse, whether sexual, physical
Children are unable to effectively manage this type of stress
by themselves and since in many instances the adult who
cares for them is the source of the stress, the problem
is compounded. Stressed out by the very person who you love
and who is supposed to love you back and lower your stress
level. As a result, the stress response system gets activated
for a very long time. This can lead to permanent damage
to the brain and other organs.
Prolonged exposure to stress hormones can actually result
in the development of a smaller brain. Toxic stress can
disrupt the development of brain circuits as they are developing
in childhood. This can cause the child to develop a low
threshold for stress, becoming overly reactive to adverse
experiences throughout life. High sustained levels of cortisone
suppress the immune system, making the individual susceptible
to a variety of infections and chronic health problems.
Some of the adult diseases associated with stressed children
are alcoholism; depression; drug use; multiple sexual partners
(this may be considered beneficial in T&T); suicide;
heart attacks; liver disease and chronic lung disease.
Sustained high levels of cortisone can also damage a part
of the brain called the hippocampus, responsible for learning
and memory. These cognitive defects can continue into adulthood.
Is this the reason for our politicians short term
memory and seeming inability to learn from their mistakes?
Local research would seem to be urgently needed. Hurry,
we do not have much time.