The Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development

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I read an article recently on the effects of maltreatment on brain development in children. It was such a concise and informative overview of recent developments in this area that I decide to reproduce the article (with the kind permission of the Child Welfare Information Gateway) in its entirety and make it available below.

Click to open or download Paper ‘Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development’

The particular interest of this article lies in its provision of a biological basis for what has been traditionally described in psychological, behavioural and emotional terms. There is, I suspect, a tendency amongst some of us to be a little dismissive of psychological models, ascribing to such notions as ‘so and so never did me any harm’ or ‘it’s just a bunch of hokum.’  This paper relocates the substance of these psychological models and places them in the realm of the empirical. It provides a physical narrative to the psychological one, delineating how maltreatment can cause early changes in brain structure and chemical activity. It correlates these alterations to a wide range of effects on behavioural, social and emotional functioning.  


It makes some recommendation for future practice, which although targeted at the American Child Welfare System, is something equally applicable to our social care system.


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