Experts warn that President Donald Trump’s recently rescinded policy to separate illegal immigrant children from their parents at the border could create toxic stress for the little ones. Trump rolled back the policy on Wednesday.
However, more than 2,000 people were separated at the border, an incident which could scar them for life, experts warn. Also, Trump’s recent order does not instruct border authorities to reunite those kids with their parents.
Toxic stress can take a heavy toll on children’s development. Poverty, physical abuse, and verbal violence can lead to life-long issues. Yet, unlike these factors, separating children from parents at the border is preventable.
Jack Shonkoff of Harvard University explained that in the face of adversity, a child needs his parent to feel safe and keep going.
This is not a scientific issue—it’s a fundamental, moral disaster,
Abrupt Family Separation Can Negatively Impact Children
When a family separation occurs abruptly, children’s bodies are flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, two powerful stress hormones. Elevated levels of these hormones can damage neurons in the long run, which can lead to mental health issues, learning issues, and behavioral problems.
- Also, if the stress is too high, the children’s immune system, metabolic system, and cardiovascular system can be severely affected.
- There are studies that found changes in the brain chemistry in kids facing an abrupt family separation or other similar stressful events.
In addition, the longer the family separation, the worse the effects on children’s health are.
Shonkoff explained that the bodies of the children separated from their parents activate stress responses every day. The stress response can wear their developing brain and bodies.
Another Harvard scientist Charles Nelson said that, according to the attachment theory, an abrupt separation of the child from his primary caregiver can be “catastrophic”.
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