Stress in Childhood


This paper focuses on the social aspects of stress in childhood. In particular, this essay will show how various external and internal factors can cause emotional and mental stress of a child. Moreover, we will discuss a case study which exemplifies the effects of childhood stress. Finally, this paper will briefly analyze the role of educators in helping those children who have or had this kind of experience.

Stress in Childhood

Stress in childhood can profoundly affect the cognitive and social development of a person. This phenomenon has always been relevant to educators and psychologists. This paper will discuss some common causes of stress and its effects.

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The main focus will be on the role of various socialization agents in causing this stress. In particular, one can speak about family, school, peers, or teachers. Furthermore, it will analyze a specific case study of a person who was exposed to this emotional and mental strain. Overall, this experience can change the way in which a child sees oneself and the others.

The psychologists identify several causes of stress in childhood, namely, divorce or separation of parents, unemployment of father or mother, remarriage, the death of grandparents (Humphrey, 2003, p. 99). Moreover, one should not forget about the long-lasting effects of domestic violence and abuse (Anda et al 2005, p 174). They are also powerful sources of stress. These factors can be attributed to such agent of socialization as family.

Yet, one should not forget about those ones related to the external environment of a family and the entire community, for instance, economic instability and unemployment of a parent (Johnson 2009, p. 29). Thirdly, peers can also intensify the stressful experiences of a child, especially if we speak about violence in school and peer pressure.

The effects of stress have been examined by many educators. The key symptoms of childhood stress can be various; they include anxiety, fear, anger, alienation from peers, or even violent behavior (Field, McCabe & Schneiderman, 1992, p. 4). They result in a child’s inability or unwillingness to maintain at least some relations with family members, peers, or teachers.

To better illustrate the effects of stress, we can refer to the case study presented by David Murphy (2009). This therapist describes a person who has been exposed to stress during childhood years; its main cause was severe abuse in school and separation from the family (Murphy, 2008, p.5).

The author identifies the following behavioral symptoms of the patient: avoidance of social contacts, irritability, hyper vigilance, and, most importantly, re-experiencing of abuse through nightmares or flashbacks (Murphy 2009, p. 3). It should be noted that this symptoms manifested themselves during his childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

As the author of the article points out the main danger is that sometimes a child can be exposed several stress factors at a time, and they can have a stronger cumulative effect (Murphy 2009, p. 5). This situation is particularly widespread among children who are subjected to violence at home and in school. One can derive another important lessen from this case study. The effects of stress could have been mitigated provided that this child had received some support from school teachers, but he was virtually deprived of this opportunity.

On the whole, David Murphy presents a very severe case of trauma. However, this article eloquently illustrates the dangers of stress factors. They can have a life-long impact on the behavior and identify of a person. Certainly, educators cannot eliminate the social causes of stress. However, they should be able to detect its symptoms and intervene if it is necessary. They must ensure that this person has the social support that he/she needs.

Stressful experiences can shape a person’s identify. In particular, this person can believe that the society is hostile to him/her. Moreover, this individual will think that he/she must be alienated from others in order to avoid stress. The educators and therapists must minimize these risks by offering support and counseling to a child.

Reference List

Anda, R. F., Felitti, V. J., Bremner, J., Walker, J. D., Whitfield, C., Perry, B. D., &

H. (2006). The enduring effects of abuse and related adverse experiences in childhood. European Archives Of Psychiatry & Clinical Neuroscience, 256(3), 174-186.

Field, T., McCabe, P., & Schneiderman, N. (1992) Stress and coping in infancy and childhood. London: Routledge.

Humphrey, J. (2003). Stress Education for College Students. NY: Nova Publishers.

Johnson, S. (2009). Therapist’s Guide to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Intervention. NY: Academic Press.

Murphy, D. (2009). Client-centred therapy for severe childhood abuse: A case study. Counselling & Psychotherapy Research, 9(1), 3-10.


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