The Link Between Child Abuse and Psychopathology: A Review of Neurobiological and Genetic Research

Eamon McCrory, Stephane A. De Brito, Essi Viding

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


A growing body of research has investigated how stress, and specifically different forms of childhood abuse, is associated with neuroendocrine function as well as structural and functional differences at the level of the brain. [1] This research is in part motivated by the need to delineate biological mechanisms that may account for the heightened risk of psychological, social and health problems known to be associated with early adversity, including long-term consequences for adult economic wellbeing. [2,3] This paper selectively reviews recent human research related to early stress, maltreatment and their relationship to psychopathology; a number of earlier seminal studies are also included where these help set the research context. We primarily focus on studies of children who have experienced abuse but we also consider several studies of adults with documented histories of early adversity. We begin by briefl y considering the evidence for an association between maltreatment or abuse and atypical development of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis stress response. We then provide a concise overview of neuroimaging studies that have sought to identify differences in regional brain structure and function associated with childhood abuse. We conclude by considering the possible clinical implications of this research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Societal Burden of Child Abuse
Subtitle of host publicationLong-Term Mental Health and Behavioral Consequences
PublisherApple Academic Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781771882460
ISBN (Print)9781771882446
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 by Apple Academic Press, Inc.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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