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Vol. 21. Num. 2. 2012. Pages 117-127

Early Intervention Programs for Children and Families: Theoretical and Empirical Bases Supporting their Social and Economic Efficiency

[Programas de Intervención Temprana para Niños y Familias: Bases Teóricas y Empíricas que Sustentan su Eficiencia Social y Económica]

Arruabarrena,Ignacia Paúl,Joaquín de

Abstract

The prenatal period and the early years of life have an extraordinary importance on the physical and psychological well-being not only in the infancy, but throughout the life cycle. There is strong empirical evidence that early life is highly vulnerable to the negative effects of adverse experiences or toxic stress as maternal prenatal anxiety or child maltreatment. Research in the field of developmental neurobiology provides important keys about the mechanisms across these experiences affect the process of child development provoking alterations and dysfunctions in brain architecture. Such alterations tend to be persistent and increase the risk of physical, cognitive, social and emotional problems along infancy, adolescence and adulthood. The evidences clearly support the need and social relevancy of implementing early intervention preventive programs for children and families who are at risk for experiencing toxic stress. Such policies and programs should begin as early as possible in order to reduce or avoid the need of most costly and less effective remediation programs.

Resumen

El período prenatal y los primeros años de vida tienen una extraordinaria relevancia en la salud física y psicológica no sólo en la infancia, sino a lo largo del ciclo vital. Hay numerosas evidencias empíricas de que en este período el ser humano es altamente vulnerable a los efectos negativos de determinadas experiencias adversas (o lo que se denomina "estrés tóxico"), entre las que se pueden destacar la ansiedad materna prenatal o las situaciones de maltrato o negligencia en la temprana infancia. La investigación llevada a cabo desde la neurobiología evolutiva aporta claves importantes acerca de los mecanismos a través de los cuales dichas experiencias afectan el proceso del desarrollo infantil provocando alteraciones y disfunciones en la arquitectura cerebral. Dichas alteraciones tienden a ser persistentes e incrementan el riesgo de desórdenes y problemas físicos, cognitivos, sociales y emocionales a lo largo de la infancia, adolescencia y madurez. Las evidencias apuntan claramente la necesidad y relevancia social de desarrollar programas preventivos de intervención temprana con los niños y familias en situación de vulnerabilidad. Tales políticas y programas deben iniciarse lo antes posible para reducir o evitar la necesidad de desarrollar posteriormente intervenciones rehabilitadoras, que resultan más costosas y menos efectivas.

Keywords

early intervention
prenatal stress
toxic stress

Palabras clave

estrés prenatal
estrés tóxico
intervención temprana
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