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The US Centers For Disease Control describes "Toxic Stress" this way: "[It] results from intense adverse experiences that may be sustained over a long period of time—weeks, months or even years." see http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/pdf/Childhood_Stress.pdf

I included the top reference about the effects of childhood adversity because I'm thinking that parents' understanding of the long-term effects of their behavior will be an important part of their adherence to new behaviors. See the "Adherence Loop" as described by IDEO in 2006: http://www.ideo.com/images/uploads/news/pdfs/HFES_IDEO-adherence_2006.pdf