The traumatic stress response in child maltreatment and resultant neuropsychological effects

Kathryn R. Wilson, David J. Hansen, Ming Li

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations

Abstract

Child maltreatment is a pervasive problem in our society that has long-term detrimental consequences to the development of the affected child such as future brain growth and functioning. In this paper, we surveyed empirical evidence on the neuropsychological effects of child maltreatment, with a special emphasis on emotional, behavioral, and cognitive process-response difficulties experienced by maltreated children. The alteration of the biochemical stress response system in the brain that changes an individual's ability to respond efficiently and efficaciously to future stressors is conceptualized as the traumatic stress response. Vulnerable brain regions include the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the amygdala, the hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex and are linked to children's compromised ability to process both emotionally-laden and neutral stimuli in the future. It is suggested that information must be garnered from varied literatures to conceptualize a research framework for the traumatic stress response in maltreated children. This research framework suggests an altered developmental trajectory of information processing and emotional dysregulation, though much debate still exists surrounding the correlational nature of empirical studies, the potential of resiliency following childhood trauma, and the extent to which early interventions may facilitate recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-97
Number of pages11
JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
Volume16
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2011

Keywords

  • Child abuse
  • Emotional trauma
  • Neuropsychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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