Pediatric Annals

CME Article 

Understanding Stress in Children

Joshua D. Sparrow, MD

  • Pediatric Annals. 2007;36(4)
  • Posted April 1, 2007

Abstract

Stress is increasingly present in all of our lives, yet as this term is used with greater frequency, its meaning has become less clear. What is stress? Often the term is used to refer to an external pressure exerted on systems of human homeostasis. But it also can refer to the immediate result — a physiological reaction mediated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis; neurohormonal mediators, such as corticotropin releasing factor; glucocorticoid release; and autonomic nervous system (ANS) response altering neurotransmitter levels, accompanied by adjustments in cardiovascular, immune system, and brain function, along with predictable behavioral manifestations — a “state of stress.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joshua D. Sparrow, MD, is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and is Director, Special Initiatives, Brazelton Touchpoints Center, Children’s Hospital Boston.

Address correspondence to: Joshua D. Sparrow, MD, Brazelton Touchpoints Center, 1295 Boylston Street, Suite 320, Boston, MA 02215; www.touchpoints.org.

The author disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES

  1. Describe at least four types of stress.
  2. Explain two common ways children are buffered from external stressors.
  3. List at least one example of the Systems Theory for stress.

Abstract

Stress is increasingly present in all of our lives, yet as this term is used with greater frequency, its meaning has become less clear. What is stress? Often the term is used to refer to an external pressure exerted on systems of human homeostasis. But it also can refer to the immediate result — a physiological reaction mediated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis; neurohormonal mediators, such as corticotropin releasing factor; glucocorticoid release; and autonomic nervous system (ANS) response altering neurotransmitter levels, accompanied by adjustments in cardiovascular, immune system, and brain function, along with predictable behavioral manifestations — a “state of stress.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joshua D. Sparrow, MD, is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and is Director, Special Initiatives, Brazelton Touchpoints Center, Children’s Hospital Boston.

Address correspondence to: Joshua D. Sparrow, MD, Brazelton Touchpoints Center, 1295 Boylston Street, Suite 320, Boston, MA 02215; www.touchpoints.org.

The author disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES

  1. Describe at least four types of stress.
  2. Explain two common ways children are buffered from external stressors.
  3. List at least one example of the Systems Theory for stress.

Stress is increasingly present in all of our lives, yet as this term is used with greater frequency, its meaning has become less clear. What is stress? Often the term is used to refer to an external pressure exerted on systems of human homeostasis. But it also can refer to the immediate result — a physiological reaction mediated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis; neurohormonal mediators, such as corticotropin releasing factor; glucocorticoid release; and autonomic nervous system (ANS) response altering neurotransmitter levels, accompanied by adjustments in cardiovascular, immune system, and brain function, along with predictable behavioral manifestations — a “state of stress.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joshua D. Sparrow, MD, is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and is Director, Special Initiatives, Brazelton Touchpoints Center, Children’s Hospital Boston.

Address correspondence to: Joshua D. Sparrow, MD, Brazelton Touchpoints Center, 1295 Boylston Street, Suite 320, Boston, MA 02215; www.touchpoints.org.

The author disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES

  1. Describe at least four types of stress.
  2. Explain two common ways children are buffered from external stressors.
  3. List at least one example of the Systems Theory for stress.

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