Evidence Based Guideline

The Effects of Childhood Stress on Health
Across the Lifespan


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This course meets the qualifications for 3 hours of continuing education
consisting of reading and taking a post-test on

The Effects of Childhood Stress on Health
Across the Lifespan



U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Learning Objectives

In this 3 unit course clinicians will be able to:

Describe the three types of stress that The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child has identified based on available research

Discuss the connection between childhood stress and adult health

Analyze the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Pyramid

Implement recommendations to mitigate the adverse impact of childhood stress





The ACE Pyramid represents the conceptual framework for the Study. During the time period of the 1980s and early 1990s information about risk factors for disease had been widely researched and merged into public education and prevention programs. However, it was also clear that risk factors, such as smoking, alcohol abuse, and sexual behaviors for many common diseases were not randomly distributed in the population. In fact, it was known that risk factors for many chronic diseases tended to cluster, that is, persons who had one risk factor tended to have one or more others.

Because of this knowledge, the ACE Study was designed to assess what we considered to be “scientific gaps” about the origins of risk factors. These gaps are depicted as the two arrows linking Adverse Childhood Experiences to risk factors that lead to the health and social consequences higher up the pyramid. Specifically, the study was designed to provide data that would help answer the question: “If risk factors for disease, disability, and early mortality are not randomly distributed, what influences precede the adoption or development of them?” By providing information to answer this question, we hoped to provide scientific information that would be useful for the development of new and more effective prevention programs.

The ACE Study takes a whole life perspective, as indicated on the orange arrow leading from conception to death. By working within this framework, the ACE Study began to progressively uncover how childhood stressors (ACE) are strongly related to development and prevalence of risk factors for disease and health and social well-being throughout the lifespan.


is approved by the:

maintains responsibility for the program.



how it works

Due to the wonders of technology, the minute you submit your order over our secure line, it is encrypted, and processed safely and securely by Authorize.net, a secure web processor. Or, if you prefer, call us toll-free 888-777-3773.

You will immediately receive confirmation of your order, your password and how to access the course material. (Please do not block e-mails from classes@psychceu.com, orders@psychceu.com and info@psychceu.com)

If you ordered an online course, you can begin to take the course immediately.

You will receive instructions, via e-mail, on how to take your test online.

Contact us or call if you need technical support.

Your test will be graded online, so the moment you have passed, you may print out your certificate of completion.

That's it! You are done!


Stress is internal or external influences that disrupt an individual’s normal state of well-being. These influences are capable of affecting health by causing emotional distress and leading to a variety of physiological changes. These changes include increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and a dramatic rise in hormone levels.

Toxic stress results from adverse experiences that may be sustained for a long period of time. This type of stress can disrupt early brain development, compro-mise the functioning of important biological systems, and lead to long-term health problems.

Child maltreatment, a source of toxic stress, is a significant public health problem in the United States. An estimated 8,755,000 juvenile victims live in this country. That means that more than 1 of 7 children between the ages of 2 and 17 years have experienced maltreatment. This includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, neglect, and custodial interference or family abduction. The perpetrators are family (77%), acquaintances (23%), and strangers (2%).

The Effects of Toxic Stress on Brain Development in Early Childhood

The ability to manage stress is controlled by brain circuits and hormone systems that are activated early in life. When a child feels threatened, hormones are released and they circulate throughout the body. Prolonged exposure to stress hormones can impact the brain and impair functioning in a variety of ways.

• Toxic stress can impair the connection of brain circuits and, in the extreme, result in the development of a smaller brain.

• Brain circuits are especially vulnerable as they are developing during early childhood. Toxic stress can disrupt the development of these circuits. This can cause an individual to develop a low threshold for stress, thereby becoming overly reactive to adverse experiences through-out life.

• High levels of stress hormones, including cortisol, can suppress the body’s immune response. This can leave an individual vulnerable to a variety of infections and chronic health problems.

• Sustained high levels of cortisol can damage the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. These cognitive deficits can continue into adulthood.


Cost of the 3 unit course is $44


All material included in this course is either in the public domain, or used with express permission.


www.psychceu.com adheres to the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists. Our courses are carefully screened by our Planning Committee to adhere to APA standards. We also require authors who compose Internet courses specifically for us to follow APA ethical standards.

Many of our courses contain case material, and may use the methods of qualitative research and analysis, in-depth interviews and ethnographic studies. The psychotherapeutic techniques depicted may include play therapy, sandplay therapy, dream analysis, drawing analysis, client and therapist self-report, clinical vignettes, etc. The materials presented may be considered non-traditional and may be controversial, and may not have widespread endorsement within the profession. www.psychceu.com maintains responsibility for the program.

Take the test online!
Print out your own certificate!
This course counts as a 'regular' (not self-study) course by the CA BBS!

To order


e-mail us!

Frequently Asked Questions



© 2024. www.psychceu.com. all rights reserved


privacy policy
to order