Although diverse disciplines focus on the multiple causes and sequelae of stress and development, a systematic examination of the mechanisms involved in moderating stress on development has begun only recently. Recent advances based on studies of the mechanisms of physical and emotional stress ( Chrousos, Loriaux, & Gold, in press) have identified both stress-related physiological structures and functions and environmental contexts that may alter the course of behavioral development. In this chapter, we discussed findings on socioemotional stress, physical exercise stress, and stress involved in psychiatric disorders. We suggest that the physiological changes that accompany these stressors may have long-term implications for behavioral development. Although the effects of these stressors may appear to be short-term, their long-term effects may be substantial. The stress response that accompanies physical exercise, for instance, activates the adrenal axis and suppresses the gonadal axis, potentially impacting on growth and reproduction. It is important to note, however, that the models used to conceptualize physical environmental stressors and behavioral development have been developed primarily in nonhuman species. As the application of these models in research on stress and behavioral development in humans has begun only recently, our conclusions should be viewed as tentative and serve to stimulate hypothesis formation and future research.
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