The Dangers of Adverse Childhood Experiences

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Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are the basis for how humans handle stress from birth through the rest of their lives. ACEs are any of a variety of events that have an outstanding, negative affect on a person’s livelihood. These stressors can exhibit rather exceptional long-term health and behavioral effects, as well. There is great emphasis placed on the importance of healthy brain development in young children. This article is an interesting and informative read for both new and old parents alike, because it explains the behaviors associated with exposure to certain life events.

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Stress presents itself in a variety of forms. The two major categories are positive stress and toxic stress. Positive stress is a rather normal part of life. It is caused by short-term events such as trying out for the cheerleading team, taking a driving test, or presenting a speech in front of a large crowd. Positive stress is a very normal experience and a relatively healthy one. It gives the body a source of experience for properly handling larger, more substantial stress. This larger, more substantial stress is called tolerable stress. It sort of acts as a bridge between positive stress and toxic stress.

Tolerable stress is not necessarily normal stress, but it is usually short-term. It can, however, have a greater impact on a child. In the event of a child coming into contact with a situation such as the death of someone close to them or losing all of their material possessions in a fire and watching the reactions of their parents. Regardless of the situation, it is important that the child have someone to look to for understanding and comfort during the difficult time. This particular type of stress can be critical because while it is somewhat normal, it can easily become toxic. Toxic stress is brought on by intense, re-occurring, long-term exposure to a negative event(s). Depending on the age of the child, it can have extensive negative effects on the development of their brain.

Toxic stress would include an abusive parent or being raised by drug users or alcoholics and always being around different people as a result. No matter the level of stress, they all have their own affect on the brain.

Throughout our lives there are particular periods of time when the brain is particularly active and developing. These periods are referred to as windows of opportunity and are crucial to the overall development of the brain. Neuroplasticity is the process of brain development that is shaped by personal experiences. More specifically, there are two very similar types of neuroplasticity called synaptic plasticity and cellular plasticity. These types of plasticity occur in children five years old and younger. This is where the affects of ACEs begin to take place. Typically the more ACEs that a child has, the more health issues and trouble they will face as they age.

Toxic stress is essentially the misuse of the body’s stress response. Adrenaline is a hormone that is present in short-term stress. Cortisol is a hormone that is present in long-term stress situations. Cortisol can have much more dangerous effects on the body depending on the length of the situation. Having too much or too little of these present can affect the development of the brain. The part of the brain that regulates learning, memory, and some stress responses is the hippocampus. Toxic stress can cause mood imbalance and memory impairment. Another area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, is the hub for decision making, judgement and attention. Toxic stress could negatively impact a person’s focus, memory, and critical thinking. The amygdala, that is responsible for emotions is also affected. Toxic stress can cause fear to be a child’s initial response to new stimuli.

Education on this topic is important for pediatricians, teachers, and anyone who works directly with children, has children, or will have children. They may be able to help reverse these negative events if given the right tools and understanding of the condition before it is too late. This article is very informative and easy to understand. It gives clear and valid explanations for what is going on in a child’s developing brain and why it is important to know what is going on. If more people are enlightened on the early development on the brain, then they may be driven to make better choices not only for the children but also for themselves.


While reading the article, I learned a great deal of information about a child’s brain development and the way that the world has an impact on it. First, I learned the official categories for different types of stress. I knew that there were different degrees of stress but that was really all that I knew about it. Second, I learned that our experiences shape our brain from a really young age. Third, I did not realize that toxic stress could cause the body to be in a constant state of preparedness for emergency. Along with that I learned that the body is basically in overdrive all of the time and it is very unhealthy for that to occur.

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The Dangers of Adverse Childhood Experiences. (2019, Mar 13). Retrieved November 29, 2022 , from

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