Stress and brain development

Stress is a normal part of a child’s development when buffered by a supportive and caring environment. However experiencing re-occurring or high levels of stress can have a significant negative impact on a child’s development.

Your child needs to have the opportunity to learn through new experiences, but also have support and guidance from their family, to feel safe.

‘Tolerable stress levels’ are brief or moderate stressful experiences which, if the child also is supported by stable and caring relationships, can help your child in their development of adaptive coping. For example, a child may experience stress if they feel hungry, tired or need a nappy change. This should be remedied by the family or caregiver quickly, but the brief stress response experienced by the baby in this case is an example of tolerable stress levels.

Excessive or prolonged periods of stress can have a negative impact on a child’s brain development and can lead to problems in behaviour or learning, or impact physical and mental health later in life.

What you can do

Caring and positive relationships are essential to ensure stress levels promote resilience for babies and children. Providing routine, physical care, positive relationships and love can help create a supportive environment to help your baby deal with stress.

Image baby looking happy and secure

Published — 30 August 2016 Last updated — 04 November 2016

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