Study: Toxic stress can follow children into adulthood - WNEM TV 5

Study: Toxic stress can follow children into adulthood

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

Growing up under tough circumstances can be hard on a child and can lead to problems with learning and behavior.

New research shows the problems of growing up in a stressful environment may follow a child deep into adulthood.

"Everything started making sense on what was going on in our house," said Alvin Clarke, grandparent.

He takes care of two grandchildren who have had a tough start to their lives. They are dealing with toxic stress, stress so constant it becomes toxic to a kid's brain.

It usually occurs in children who grew up in stressful situations.

Clarke has custody of the children because of how unfit the parents are.

The oldest grandchild actually had meth in his system while in his mother's womb. It affected his brain.

Clarke said because of that the little boy has done some terrible things.

"We had a couple of dogs and my grandson proceeded to kick one of them. My mother-in-laws dog. And the next morning the dog was dead at the end of the bed," Clarke said.

Clarke said the young boy even threatened to kill his sister. Now the two siblings are always kept apart.

"Brothers and sisters are supposed to be able to play together and now we have to monitor because he liked to hit, hurt," Clarke said.

Clarke said he is working with Dr. Tina Hahn, a pediatrician in Caro.

Hahn described early signs of toxic stress parents should look for.

"Excessive tantrums, difficulty to calm down and console. So you want to see the symptoms early. And if you see the symptoms early you want to talk to a pediatric physician," Hahn said.

Hahn said children with toxic stress are at risk of having their adult lives cut short by up to 20 years and that's not all.

"The risk for suicide attempts is increased by 5,000 percent. The risk for IV drug addiction is increased by 5,000 percent," Hahn said.

Hahn said the best thing parents can do is reduce the amount of stress in their lives, even if they are dealing with hard times.

Hahn said children can sense the stress parents are under and will carry that with them.

As for Clarke, he said his granddaughter is doing much better thanks to therapy from the area early head start program. He said his grandson is doing better too, but he needs more help.

"I do want to get to the root of the problem and maybe he can have a decent childhood from here on out," Clarke said.

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