Confronting Childhood Stress Identification and Research Proposal

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Sources: 6
  • Subject: Children
  • Type: Research Proposal
  • Paper: #29999651

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

And according to studies conducted within the last
decade, that vulnerability exists on an extremely elastic scale. Such is
to say that the bodily and emotional responses to stress which are most
commonly manifested as an accelerated heart-rate, heightened blood
pressure, logical disorientation and shortness of breath may at first be
the practical reactions which are levied against stressful situations. As
we consider stress in children, this helps to point us toward a strategy
not of removing stress, which as a general rule of life is essentially
unfeasible, but of achieving more effective and proven methods of stress
management. Coping mechanisms for young sufferers of stress can also be
used to help children better understand the nature and implications of
It does bear noting that in and of itself, stress does not possess a
negative connotation. As point of fact, stress is an important inducer of
the survival instincts that incline us to the fight or flight impulses
which are at our disposal when confronted by conflict. When contending
with stress, such as in the clich?d example where one encounters a hungry
bear in the woods, the body undergoes a complete set of responses that are
autonomic rather than cognitive. In the context of the issues pertaining
to childhood stressors, this might instead be an unwanted encounter with
the school bully in the playground. In both instances, the individual's
heart and blood systems, his sensory organs, his brain and his lungs are
all engaged in heightened activity in anticipation of the person's
elevation in action. Inevitably, the individual will be forced to make a
decision between facing the bear (bully) or running. In either case, the
body has undertaken the necessary steps to propel the response.
However, the physiological preparedness which overtakes the body as a
knee-jerk response to stress can be cultivated and transformed from
survival instinct to mental impediment with the sustained application of
stress-inducing factors. Ultimately, the set of fight or flight responses
which the body had previously reserved for urgent circumstance, can become
the involuntary response to stressors large and small. Equally as
troubling is the reality that such a condition may be worsened, rather than
assimilated, by the consistent presence of said stressors. Such is to
indicate that the severity of the physical symptoms of stress may be
elevated as an individual gradually concedes the ability to ward off the
impractical knee-jerk response of fight or flight to stress in all of its
forms. This process, known as stress sensitization, "is uncharitably
subversive. While the chemical signals systems of body and brain are
running amok in a person sensitized to stress, the person's perception of
stress remains unchanged. It's as if the brain, aware that the burner on
the stove is cool, still signals the body to jerk its hand away. 'What
happens is that sensitization leads the brain to re-circuit itself in
response to stress,' says psychologist Michael Meaney, Ph.D., of McGill
University. 'we know that what we are encountering may be a normal,
everyday episode of stress, but the brain is signaling the body to respond
inappropriately." (Carpi, 1)
This is a demonstration of the potentially severe long-term emotional
consequences of failing to manage or reign in symptoms of stress and the
related coping mechanisms demonstrated in children. This means that even
an individual equipped with the cognitive abilities referred to above may
find it increasingly difficult to cope with stress by appealing to
practical thinking. The physical reactions to stress which can be so
taxing on one's capacity to assimilate challenges and function effectively
under duress are those which, with the sustained pressure of stress, may
become impossible to resolve through one's own cognitive resources and
support systems. In such instances, psychological attention may become
necessary in order to reverse the process of gradually invasive stress
Indeed, in spite of the differences that persist between individual
constitutions, there are ways to help those who suffer unduly from stress
to handle stressful conditions more appropriately. So denotes the text by
Molgaard (1996), which reports that all "children react differently to
stress. Some seem to be born with easy-going personalities. From infancy,
they take life in stride, getting along with others and adjusting to
changes. Other children are upset easily, being bothered by new situations
and routines as well as more challenging events. Children's personalities
develop from what they inherit genetically and from the environment in
which they grow up. You cannot change characteristics your children
inherited, but there are many ways for them to learn to manage stress."
(Molgaard, 2)
This is where the work of the child counselor becomes essential to the
discussion, as there are a wide array of strategies available to this
professional in helping a child to become better suited for the stresses of
later life. The failure to address stress in these formative years does
not just threaten to darken these early stages of development with negative
feelings and recollections of anxiety. Further, such a failure could help
to retain the child in this state of coping incapacity as the challenges in
life only gain greater nuance and complexity. Where the individual is
never properly taught how to integrate challenges into a normal and healthy
response system, the symptoms of stress observed during childhood could be
emotionally and practically crippling as the individual reaches maturity.
So indicates the text by DeBoard, which is particularly concerned with
the consequences of not properly inducing an automatic appeal to stress
management techniques or coping mechanisms. Here, the author cites the
bevy of health concerns which are directly associated with stress disorders
or personal stress management limitations. As one approaches one's teen
years, the failure to have adopted some such strategies to a positive
effect may prefigure some serious, lasting and even fatal emotional
problems. Underscoring the seriousness of this as a public health issue,
DeBord notes that "adolescents and teens under stress may feel angry
longer, feel disillusioned, lack self-esteem, and have a general distrust
of the world. Sometimes adolescents will show extreme behaviors ranging
from doing everything they are asked, to rebelling and breaking all of the
rules and taking part in high-risk behaviors (drugs, shoplifting, skipping
school). Depression and suicidal tendencies are concerns." (DeBord, 2)
To this end, DeBord provides the discussion with a clear rationale for
a more intent focus on providing public information and in-school training
for teachers, parents and counselors to better identify signs of stress and
to assist students in developing effective coping strategies. Most
assuredly, the potential of very serious and unwanted long-term
consequences illustrates that the perspective taken by many adults-that
childhood stress is a fleeting and minor condition-is incorrect and
potentially dangerous. The discussion here denotes that childhood stress
must be taken seriously if we are to effectively diagnose and treat
fomenting mental health challenges that could potentially emerge as
something more catastrophic.
Though this discussion does center around the roles taken by support
systems and school counselors in helping the afflicted subject, individual
empowerment does remain the key to proper stress management. Indeed, the
most important consideration in treating stress rests with the individual,
who must integrate coping strategies into everyday life. Self-awareness is
crucial if one is to recognize the symptoms in himself and treat them by
seeking out balance, proper integration of challenges and the ability to
put everyday tasks into perspective. This also means that parents,
teachers and society in general have to take a step back and reconsider
that which is being asked of our children. Though it is important to do
well in school and remain heavily involved in enrichment activities, there
are inherent dangers in overburdening children against their individual
wills. As one source denotes, "Many kids are too busy to have time to play
creatively or relax after school. Kids who complain about the number of
activities they're involved in or refuse to go to them may be signaling
that they're overscheduled." (KidsHealth, 1) without a doubt, one of the
most important features to altering the path of children who feel
overstressed is the ability of parents to recognize and adjust to such
signals. This demonstrates childhood stress to be a shared responsibility.

Underscoring the challenges posed by the stratified range of
possibilities in categorizing and treating stress at any age is the
necessary acknowledgment that stress itself is not just normal but vital
for providing healthy motivation and illuminating the urgency with which
action may sometimes be requisite to a circumstance. However, sustained,
unchecked and unresolved stress can result in very serious health
conditions. A great responsibility rests with the mental health community
and young stress sufferers alike to pursue the diagnosis and treatment of
stress with pragmatism, practicality and self-reliance rather than
oversimplification, compensatory behavior and panic.

Works Cited:

Carpi, J. (1996). Stress. . . It's Worse Than You Think. Psychology
Today, 29.

DeBord, K. (1999).…

Cite This Research Proposal:

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