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Childhood stress affects women and men differently

A 10 year old boy and a 9 year old girl live in the same neighbourhood. Their homes are not the idyllic, safe havens that one would hope all children get to live in but rather ones that are marked with financial troubles and domestic tension. As a means of coping with their challenging surroundings, the girl turns to food while the boy socially isolates himself. While this particular story is completely fictional, it is quite likely a reality for many children. It also provides a glimpse at how men and women react to stressors differently and how stress impacts children in different ways depending on their gender.

A study by Michigan State University and University of Texas, which involved surveying more than 3,600 people over a 15-year period, found that childhood stress caused by economic difficulties, parental separation etc. spurred weight gain in women over the years more than adult stress did. Men, on the other hand, did not experience the same issue due to childhood stress. Professor Hui Liu stated that the reason behind women’s weight gain may have something to do with the way they cope with stress. While women have a tendency of eating more to manage stress or even depression, men are less likely to engage in weight-gaining behaviour for those reasons.

This research is just another piece of the puzzle in understanding what kind of impacts stress have. More importantly, it highlights why it is important to address stress and other emotional problems during the formative years.


In Brief. Monitor on Psychology, October 2015

“Childhood stress fuels weight gain in women”. MSUToday. Web. 7 July 2015

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