What growing up in a pandemic is doing to our youngest kids’ brains 

A father helps his daughter wear a mask.
Olivia Chan's father helps her with a new mask she received during a graduation ceremony for her pre-K class in Jersey City, N.J., in June 2020.
Seth Wenig | AP Photo 2020

The things that happen to us when we are children can follow us for the rest of our lives. Neuroscience research shows the chronic stress caused by poverty, abuse and other trauma literally leaves its mark on a child’s brain. Stress during pregnancy can even increase the risk of ADHD. 

Now we’re living through what some early childhood researchers call the biggest source of stress in a generation — The pandemic has brought strain and suffering to many families. Parents have lost jobs. Mental health problems and substance abuse are rising. Emergency room visits suggest child abuse is, too. 

What mark will the pandemic leave on the generation growing up right now? 

Host Angela Davis talked to a cognitive neuroscientist and a pediatrician about research into young developing brains and how caring adults can support children and their families. 


  • Damien Fair is a cognitive neuroscientist and professor in the Medical School and at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. He’s also co-director of the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain. 

  • Dr. Krishnan Subrahmanian is a pediatrician with Hennepin Healthcare and consultant for the Redleaf Center for Family Healing. The center offers mental health services and parenting support to families expecting a baby or raising young children.

Use the audio player above to listen to the program.

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