Toxic stress and children’s outcomes

Leila Morsy, Richard Rothstein

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


Executive summary

“Stress” is a commonplace term for hormonal changes that occur in response to frightening or threatening events or conditions. When severe, these changes are termed “toxic” stress and can impede children’s behavior, cognitive capacity, and emotional and physical health.

This report was produced in collaboration with the Opportunity Institute

Frightening or threatening situations are more sustained and are experienced more frequently by African American and socially and economically disadvantaged children, who also have less access to protective resources that can mitigate their stress to tolerable levels. This report describes the relative frequency of toxic stress by race and social class, and shows how it depresses children’s outcomes and contributes to the “achievement gap.” We conclude by suggesting policy and practice recommendations that can reduce the cognitive, behavioral, and health harm that toxic stress provokes.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWashington, DC
PublisherEconomic Policy Institute
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019
Externally publishedYes


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