“The ripple effect of violence on the home front is huge, and can put children at risk of problems in adulthood”, writes Jill Stark, Senior Writer at Sunday Age, Sydney Morning Herald
..Child development experts say, warning of an emerging phenomenon of ”toxic stress” in young people who have experienced prolonged trauma. In a state of constant alert, the child’s ”fight or flight” stress response goes into overdrive, causing physiological changes to the architecture of the brain.
The results can be catastrophic. As cell growth is impaired and the formation of healthy neural circuits is disrupted, the child struggles to regulate emotions.
Changes in the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for memory and emotional control – cause shrinkage, which in turn can trigger learning and behavioural problems, difficulty with impulse control and a heightened sense of rage and self-loathing.
Evidence is also emerging that the effects of toxic stress can last a lifetime, putting the child at increased risk of mental and physical health problems, and cognitive impairment in adulthood.
”We’re already seeing it now, with major problems with children who are suffering toxic stress and increasingly have poor social skills and poor capacity to form relationships,” Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Dr Joe Tucci says.
”So in the future, what we’re going to see when these kids are adults is a lot more anti-social behaviour, a lot more violence and aggression and social problems.”