November 2016 - Nurturing relationships buffer stress December 14 2016

Everyone experiences stressors – the stressful events that may lead to activation of the stress biology in our bodies. Stress biology can include an increase in stress hormones (e.g., cortisol, adrenaline) that cause our blood pressure to rise and heart to race.  The magnitude of the stressors and our perception of the events, along with available support systems, influence the extent to which the stress biology is activated, and the long-term impact of stress on the body.

For young children, the support and presence of a caring adult helps to regulate their stress response and therefore reduce the negative impact on the brain and body. This in turn, helps set the foundation for a healthy stress response system. On the other hand, experiencing stress in the early years without the support of a caring adult, negatively impacts the developing brain and may lead to a stress response system that is activated too easily or for too long, damaging long term health and wellbeing.

Dr. Megan Gunnar, of the University of Minnesota, studies the biology of stress and how it affects brain development and behaviour. Listen as she describes research findings on the role of secure nurturing relationships in buffering stressful events. In the second video, watch as a young infant is given his first needle at a local health clinic in Tajikistan. Notice his response when his mother is able to pick him up after the needle and how he reacts when she puts him down to dress him. What does this scene tell you about their relationship and the role of his mother in helping him to handle this stressful event?