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Review
. 2017 Feb 28;4(3):16.
doi: 10.3390/children4030016.

The Role of Mindfulness in Reducing the Adverse Effects of Childhood Stress and Trauma

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Free PMC article
Review

The Role of Mindfulness in Reducing the Adverse Effects of Childhood Stress and Trauma

Robin Ortiz et al. Children (Basel). .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Research suggests that many children are exposed to adverse experiences in childhood. Such adverse childhood exposures may result in stress and trauma, which are associated with increased morbidity and mortality into adulthood. In general populations and trauma-exposed adults, mindfulness interventions have demonstrated reduced depression and anxiety, reduced trauma-related symptoms, enhanced coping and mood, and improved quality of life. Studies in children and youth also demonstrate that mindfulness interventions improve mental, behavioral, and physical outcomes. Taken together, this research suggests that high-quality, structured mindfulness instruction may mitigate the negative effects of stress and trauma related to adverse childhood exposures, improving short- and long-term outcomes, and potentially reducing poor health outcomes in adulthood. Future work is needed to optimize implementation of youth-based mindfulness programs and to study long-term outcomes into adulthood.

Keywords: ACEs; MBSR; adverse childhood events; allostatic load; at-risk youth; childhood adversity; mind-body; mindfulness; resilience; toxic stress; trauma.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
The impact of stress and trauma in childhood. Adverse childhood events, stress, and trauma contribute to toxic stress. Toxic stress that results from prolonged exposure to stress, aggregated trauma experiences, or incidents of significant emotional impact yields an increased allostatic load on the body. Allostatic load, measured by biological markers of disease risk including inflammatory cytokines, neurobiological changes, metabolic abnormalities, and epigenetic modifications, may carry over into future generations.
Figure 2
Figure 2
The negative impact of adverse childhood events (ACEs) and trauma in childhood is reduced by mindfulness (MFN). Mindfulness has been shown to mitigate the psychological, behavioral, and physiological changes associated with ACEs and trauma and increased allostatic load. MFN, specifically, reduces symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) associated with stress and trauma, and is inversely associated with poor health behavior and biological makers of metabolic, neurologic, and inflammatory dysfunction and disease. Stress has been demonstrated to be associated with epigenetic modifications that may persist in offspring; therefore, mindfulness interventions may reduce these negative influences.

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