The Negative Impact of Stressful or Traumatic Events Experienced in Early Childhood
Social determinants of health (SDOH), as defined by the CDC, are the conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.
While all people are influenced by SDOH, some groups face increased vulnerability. Growing research identifies the significant negative impact of stressful or traumatic events experienced in early childhood. Specifically, exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can elicit toxic stress responses. This response produces significant biological changes that can have negative impacts on brain architecture as well as the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems and thus future disease including mental health. This is particularly problematic for children, as their brains are still developing, heightening their vulnerability to outside influences. Children in poverty (currently 21% of all US children) also face additional risk, as they are often exposed to a cluster of stressors that may result in high rates of infant mortality, developmental delays, asthma, ear infections, obesity, and child abuse and neglect.