Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Terri L. Edwards


AbstractYoung children experiencing toxic stress has negative consequences on their development. The purpose of this case study was to explore teachers' perceptions of toxic stress in young children and the classroom practices used to assist students experiencing toxic stress from two rural early childhood centers in an eastern state in the United States. The conceptual framework for this qualitative research included Bronfenbrenner's ecological model of human development, social constructivist theory, and information from The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. The research questions explored teachers' perceptions of toxic stress in young children and classroom practices being used in the classroom when working with students experiencing toxic stress. Data collection for the study included teacher interviews, journals, and classroom observations. Open coding and thematic analysis were used for data analysis and to develop a synthesis of the information, including the main themes. The results of the final study indicated that teachers describe challenging, aggressive, and/or withdrawn behaviors in students experiencing toxic stress. Teachers indicated concerns about the home environments of young children experiencing toxic stress. Teachers felt emotional and unprepared when working with these children and they used consistent routines and frequent communication to support students experiencing toxic stress. The research could lead to social change, especially in the local community and to the local providers of early childhood education and care. The study could help to inform the local community about toxic stress and the influences on growth and learning for young children dealing with toxic stress.