Toxic Stress Factors in Boston
The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University documents the profound importance of children’s relationships with adults in shaping their overall development. Their work also illustrates the different levels of stress that affect children – from “normal stress” to “tolerable stress” to “toxic stress” – the level of sustained anxiety that “can damage developing brain architecture and create a short fuse for the body’s stress response systems that leads to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.”
In Boston, estimates of the number of young children at risk for experiencing toxic stress – resulting from exposure to domestic violence, abuse/neglect, and/or caregiver substance abuse or mental illness – range from 26% to 65%.
Data Source: Estimates prepared by Data and Research Team and Systems Work Group of Boston’s Birth to Five School Readiness Initiative.
Linguistically Isolated Households with Children 0-5 in Boston
Data Source: 2007 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample
Homeless Children/Family Homelessness in Boston
Between 2006 and 2008, the number of homeless children increased from 1,540 in 2006 to 2,288 at the end of 2008. Over half of the children in shelter were under the age of six years. 11% of those children were under one year old.
Faced with high foreclosure rates that left many low-income renters evicted, as well as increased fuel and food prices, the number of homeless families in various forms of shelter increased by 22% this year. This marks the fourth year of sharp increases during a ten year steady increase in family homelessness.
Food Insecurity in Boston
From June 1998 - June 2007, almost 20% of study participants from Boston zip codes showed household food insecurity, with 9.1% of children showing food insecurity.
Data Source: Boston Medical Center, Children HealthWatch
Domestic and Community Violence in Boston
28% of children ages birth to 6 years have been exposed to moderate or severe violence
Data Source: Taylor, L., Zuckerman, B., Hank, V. & Groves, B. (1994). Witnessing violence by young children and their mothers. Journal of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics, 15, 120-123. Cited in Hagen, M. & Groves, B.M. (2007). Identifying and meeting the needs of children and adolescents exposed to domestic violence. Final Report. Suffolk County Safe and Bright Futures Initiative.
Child Poverty in Boston and Statewide
In Boston, 31.2% of children ages 0-5 live in families with income levels below or at the federal poverty line. Statewide 14% of the state's children ages 0-5 live in poverty.
Data sources: http://www.masskids.org/downloadable_forms/ChildPoverty_ExecutiveSummary_092908.pdf
2007 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample
Low Birthweight Babies in Boston
Low birthweight is a proxy measure for maternal health and adequate prenatal care. It is also a significant risk factor for developmental delays and learning disabilities. Between 1994 and 2006, Boston’s rate of low birthweight was relatively stable, fluctuating between 8.5% and 9.6% of all births. However, there are significant racial/ethnic disparities.
Data Source: Boston Public Health Commission, 2008. http://www.bphc.org/about/Documents/Health%20of%20Boston%202008.pdf
Developmental Screening Statewide
16.4% of children receive a standardized screening for developmental or behavioral problems (age 10 months-5 years) vs. 19.5% nationwide
Data source: 2007 National Survey of Children's Health
State Variation in Child Well-Being
Massachusetts ranks among the top five states where ranking among low-income children are much lower than rankings for higher-income children. http://www.aecf.org/upload/PublicationFiles/lowincomewellbeing.pdf
National Survey of Children’s Health 2003 and American Community Surveys 2002-04