Viewers sound off on the effects of ‘toxic stress’ from poverty

Hari Sreenivasan reads viewer comments about a recent signature segment concerning the effects the "toxic stress" of poverty can have on the developing brain.

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    And now to Viewers Like You, your chance to comment on our work. There were many comments following last week's story about "toxic stress" and the effect that stress can have on the developing brains of children.

    Lee Eliott spoke about her personal experience: "I was a single mother making $4.10 an hour. My mind was constantly stimulated by thinking of decent meals for my children, keeping my home and my children clean and constantly looking for ways to improve our lives. My children are now hard working college graduates. You can triumph over poverty if you set your mind on it."

    Diana Moses asked about the process of assisting those in stressful situations: "… I wonder whether the social and emotional support from other adult human beings lightening the load by their involvement also contributed to this mother's progress. I mean, suppose the meds and camp referrals and parenting tips (and so on) had been provided with much less human-to-human contact, would the same progress have been made?"

    Sonia Levy Kungli added simply: "Labeling the stress 'toxic' is toxic."

    Brando Johnson Bailey said: "Poverty is like living in an invisible cage. Eventually it breaks their spirit and ultimately, them."

    Some commented that the effect of stress isn't limited to the underprivileged.

    Grace Curran Brock said: "This isn't just happening to poor kids. Middle class and rich kids can grow up with domestic violence."

  • Betty Scarpellino added:

    "Unfortunately unearned early wealth seems to have a sad impact on many brains too. Empathy destroyed!"

    And there was this from Robert Phillips: "I'd like to see more research on this subject for different age groups. I'd bet even late onset (ie. adults who grew up well provided then lost careers later in life) have major brain adaptation over a several year period."

    As always we welcome your comments. Visit us online at, on our Facebook page, or tweet us @NewsHour.