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Infant Stress Linked to Behavior Problems Later in Life

Recent studies have shown that infants' brains are reacting to external stresses, even while they sleep.
Recent studies have shown that infants' brains are reacting to external stresses, even while they sleep.
May 20, 2013

PHOENIX - New research makes clear a direct link between stress experienced by people as infants and behavioral problems as they grow older.

Recent studies find that infants' brains are reacting to external stresses, even while they sleep. Things such as domestic conflicts, violence and other traumatic events, experienced in infancy, can influence a person's behavior later in life, even if the person doesn't have any conscious memory of the original stress.

According to infant mental health specialist Julie Ribaudo, so-called "toxic stresses" can result in many different complications, including attention and learning problems, depression and anxiety, and can even affect mood and anger regulation.

"It's sort of like the best-kept secret of why I think America is so violent," Ribaudo declared. "It's because we really don't take good care of our children at a policy, national level."

Ribaudo said the problem is especially serious with families in poverty that experience economic and other social stresses every day, and added that the first step in solving the problem is acknowledging that the problem exists.

"So, if we can first admit as a society that infants and toddlers are adversely effected by their experiences, and sort of not protect ourselves from the pain of that, then we can begin to look at public policy, funding and training that can alter the course," she stated.

A study recently published in the journal Early Human Development found that massage therapy reduces stress in premature infants in addition to aiding in the development of their nervous systems.

For more information, visit the National Association of Social Workers at NASW-Michigan.org.

Infant stress study information is at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ