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Recognizing the consequences of childhood Stress. Are WE there yet?

The American Academy of Pediatrics two weeks ago officially recognized the harmful effects of childhood trauma, toxic stress, and adversity on health and development. The question is, will anybody listen?

The scientific evidence supporting this public health imperative is there, and now valorized by the AAP, but it is unlikely to go much further unless the social and political climate supports it. As history tells us, this wouldn't be the first time that scientific findings on the deleterious effects of trauma failed to gain traction.

Freud, however, was a smart cookie. His knack for inquiry may have only been surpassed by his ability to climb social hierarchies and impress elites with his ideas. Freud quickly realized that his thesis on trauma was incompatible with the social and political forces of the times. You see, Freud's research on hysteria was conducted with many well-to-do women. If his thesis were correct, sexual abuse was prevalent in the homes of many bourgeois families.

Recognizing that such claims would surely prompt his demise, Freud quickly disavowed The Aetiology of Hysteria and stated that the traumatic events described by his female patients had never actually happened and were in fact their own lucid fantasies. Freud became famous; Janet, who stood by the notion that childhood trauma had adverse consequences for health and well-being, slipped into obscurity.

Clichéd as this may sound, our children really are our future. If we like to envision a healthy, happy, well-functioning society 20, 30, 50 years from now, we need to take care of all children today. This means taking action to reduce the sources of toxic stress in all communities, especially those plagued by abject poverty and community violence—places most of us would rather ignore. In short, it means embracing notions of collectivity and mutual responsibility—both at the local and national levels.

Read more about The Public's Health.