Early childhood adversity, toxic stress, and the role of the pediatrician: translating developmental science into lifelong health

Pediatrics. 2012 Jan;129(1):e224-31. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-2662. Epub 2011 Dec 26.


Advances in a wide range of biological, behavioral, and social sciences are expanding our understanding of how early environmental influences (the ecology) and genetic predispositions (the biologic program) affect learning capacities, adaptive behaviors, lifelong physical and mental health, and adult productivity. A supporting technical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) presents an integrated ecobiodevelopmental framework to assist in translating these dramatic advances in developmental science into improved health across the life span. Pediatricians are now armed with new information about the adverse effects of toxic stress on brain development, as well as a deeper understanding of the early life origins of many adult diseases. As trusted authorities in child health and development, pediatric providers must now complement the early identification of developmental concerns with a greater focus on those interventions and community investments that reduce external threats to healthy brain growth. To this end, AAP endorses a developing leadership role for the entire pediatric community-one that mobilizes the scientific expertise of both basic and clinical researchers, the family-centered care of the pediatric medical home, and the public influence of AAP and its state chapters-to catalyze fundamental change in early childhood policy and services. AAP is committed to leveraging science to inform the development of innovative strategies to reduce the precipitants of toxic stress in young children and to mitigate their negative effects on the course of development and health across the life span.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Development*
  • Child Rearing
  • Child Welfare*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Parenting
  • Pediatrics*
  • Physician's Role
  • Primary Prevention
  • Role
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control