Adversity early in life tends to affect a child’s executive function skills — their ability to focus, for example, or organize tasks.
Experiences such as poverty, residential instability, or parental divorce or substance abuse, also can lead to changes in a child’s brain chemistry, muting the effects of stress hormones. These hormones rise to help us face challenges, stress or to simply “get up and go.”
Together, these impacts to executive function and stress hormones create a snowball effect, adding to social and emotional challenges that can continue through childhood. A new University of Washington study examines how adversity can change the ways children develop.
“This study shows how adversity is affecting multiple systems inside a child,” said the study’s lead author, Liliana Lengua, a UW professor of psychology and director of the Center for Child and Family Well-Being. “The disruption of multiple systems of self-control, both intentional planning efforts and automatic stress-hormone responses, sets off a cascade of neurobiological effects that starts early and continues through childhood.”
Read more at University of Washington