The biology of child maltreatment

Published: March, 2014

How abuse and neglect of children leave their mark on the brain.

Scientists are discovering that early experiences can have profound long-term effects on the biological systems that govern responses to stress. If these systems lack the environment required for normal development, they may fail to function as evolution designed them. Effects on the maturing brain can be subtle as well as obvious. Disturbances at a critical time early in life may exert a disproportionate influence, creating the conditions for childhood and adult depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms.

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