The Science of Child Development: What Does Inflammation Have to Do with It?


Our mission and priority at Children’s Friend is improving the well-being and healthy development of RI kids – and doing so by preventing and treating toxic stress.  We know that toxic stress (or Adverse Childhood Experiences) in childhood can cause negative impacts on mental and physical health later in life.  And earlier this summer, we wrote about the need to create “communities of opportunity” ( to transform racial and economic disparities – including disparities in COVID-19 outcomes.

Stress can cause chronic inflammation, which degrades the body.

Today, we are bringing you a nerdy, deep-dive view into why childhood toxic stress causes health impacts – including on COVID-19 – later in life.  The secret lies in one word: inflammation

Inflammation is a normal and important part of our immune response.  But the Center for the Developing Child explains:

“However, if our bodies experience constant stress, this can lead to too much inflammation. If our organs are constantly in contact with inflammatory substances, those organs can be damaged over time. If those organ systems are still developing, as they are in early childhood, the state of constant activation can cause them to adapt in ways that have impacts across the lifespan. This is how chronic inflammation can put us at greater risk for things like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, and even depression and dementia.”

Check out the Center for the Developing Child’s new infographic here to learn more.


Robert Hagberg, Chief of Strategy

Robert Hagberg, Chief of Strategy