Humanity’s evolutionary history has imbued us with specific capacities and limitations that require specific needs be met, in a specific order, so that we might survive and grow. As social mammals with the largest brains relative to body size, our in utero gestational period and process builds the foundation for the subsequent architecture of our lived experience, which is informed by the relational, cultural, and contextual factors to which we are exposed throughout conception, gestation, birth, early bonding, and initial moves toward functional interdependence in early childhood (Evertz et al., 2021).
In this chapter, you meet Xquenda, who goes by “Miguel” at school. We will explore some of the relational, cultural, and contextual factors of his conception, gestation, birth, early bonding, and transition to school age. We will also begin thinking about how culturally responsive, trauma-informed clinical support could help him and his family resolve the toxic stress and overwhelm they carry from loss, migration, ongoing acculturation, financial strain, and environmental exposures.
We also introduce a non-exhaustive set of specific challenges commonly resulting in toxic stress that impedes optimal development, increases risk for young children and families, and merits ongoing training for mental health professionals to stay current, compassionate, and effective in their prevention and intervention services. We will attempt to counter this toxic stress by introducing research that highlights what mental health professionals may do to help create buffering advocacy relationships that are attuned, sensitive, empowering, anti-racist, de-colonizing, and working toward more social justice.