Stress in Childhood: Effects on Development

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International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (Second Edition)

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Stressful events can occur at any point in child and adolescent development. Events that can cause stress include parental divorce, sexual or physical abuse, severe accidents, cancer or other life-threatening illness, natural or man-made disasters, war, terrorism, or the sudden death of a parent, sibling, or peer. However, not every child exposed to a traumatic event develops stress-related symptoms. Many children demonstrate resiliency, the ability to thrive and excel even when exposed to severe stressors. This article discusses the types of stressors that may impact upon children throughout the world, details the effect of stress on development, and discusses other factors that may either exacerbate or minimize the effect of stress on development.