Toxic stress in clients with behavioral and emotional disorders in institutional education



Year of publication 2023
Type Conference abstract
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Education

Description A common stress response is a purposeful measure aimed at the survival of the individual and the species. It takes place as a nervous and hormonal readjustment, which temporarily changes a number of organism’ key functions. However, excessive, often repeated or long-term stress has a negative effect on all attributes of human health and can result in a serious or irreversible health condition. Individuals with an increased level of scores in the ACE test (Adverse Childhood Experiences) have more frequent health problems (circulatory, metabolic, mental, immune), are more prone to addictive behavior, achieve worse education and lower job positions. The main aim of the research was to find out what degree of stressogenicity is shown by clients with behavioral and emotional disorders in institutional education and how toxic stress can change their behavior and reactions. The sub-objectives related to the most common reasons for the inclusion of clients with increased stressogenicity in institutional education and to the differences in the behavior of clients who experienced strong toxic stress and the group without this burden. The main research question was focused on the share of toxic stress in influencing and deepening behavioral and emotional disorders in clients in institutional education. Secondary research questions were focused on the connection between risky behavior of the addictive type and delinquent behavior with an increased level of stressogenicity and the most common reasons for placing people with increased stressogenicity in institutional education. The design of the research investigation was mixed. In the quantitative part, the ACE test was used, which contained a set of 10 questions focused on various risky forms of behavior. When evaluating the answers, the point gain ranged from 0 to 10 points, clients with 3 or more points were considered risky. Statistical testing of differences between the group of clients with low and high stress load was performed using the software package EpiInfo, the chi-square test and Fisher’s exact test were applied. In the qualitative part, client case studies were compiled and analyzed. The research sample consisted of 22 institutional education clients – 7 girls and 15 boys aged 14–18. The recruitment of participants was carried out in facilities in the South Moravian Region, which allow clients with behavioral and emotional disorders to stay in institutional education. The obtained data were pseudonymized, after the end of the collection they were anonymized. The facilities, clients and their legal representatives were informed about the research project through the text of the informed consent. The results showed that the average level of toxic stress in the group of 22 clients was 3.5 points, which can already be perceived as a risk score that can lead to physical, psychological and social problems and can be associated with the emergence or worsening of behavioral and emotional disorders. In the observed group, 14 clients achieved a score of 3 and above (high to high level of stress), 8 below 3 (normal or low level of stress). Among clients with increased stressogenicity, mainly neglect of care, truancy and disrespect for authority led to placement in institutional care. In individuals with a low level of stressogenicity, truancy, disrespect for authority and running away were the most common. A group of adolescents with increased stress is significantly more likely to engage in addictive behavior compared to a group without this burden. No significant difference was found in the case of delinquent behavior. To improve the current situation, it is necessary to strengthen the prevention of risky behavior, expand the network of low-threshold facilities for children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, and focus on problem families.
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