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The Atlantic: How Supportive Parenting Protects the Brain

When we experience everyday stress, our bodies kick into high gear by releasing adrenaline and cortisol. When the stress goes away-or if, as children, we're comforted by trusted adults-our bodies return to normal. But if there is no adult around, or the stressors are ongoing, the response system stays activated. This chronic, "toxic stress" throws the brain into a permanent state of high alert, weakening the neural connections that are essential for learning and cognition.

Of course, all the good advice in the world won't help a parent who is scraping by financially, doesn't have a safe home, or is otherwise strained. Denise Dowd, who works at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, mentors mothers who are victims of poverty and domestic violence. "You can't imagine what they're going through," she told me "We're talking about not just sexual abuse, but your mother selling you into prostitution, your mother shooting you up for the first time when you're 12 so you can get through your first tricks okay."

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Source: The Atlantic