The neurobiological toll of child abuse and neglect

Gretchen N. Neigh, Charles F. Gillespie, Charles B. Nemeroff

Abstract

Exposure to interpersonal violence or abuse affects the physical and emotional well-being of affected individuals. In particular, exposure to trauma during development increases the risk of psychiatric and other medical disorders beyond the risks associated with adult violence exposure. Alterations in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a major mediating pathway of the stress response, contribute to the long-standing effects of early life trauma. Although early life trauma elevates the risk of psychiatric and medical disease, not all exposed individuals demonstrate altered HPA axis physiology, suggesting that genetic variation influences the consequences of trauma exposure. In addition, the effects of abuse may extend beyond the immediate victim into subsequent generations as a consequence of epigenetic effects transmitted directly to offspring and/or behavioral changes in affected individuals. Recognition of the biological consequences and transgenerational impact of violence and abuse has critical importance for both disease research and public health policy.

Language English
Pages 389-410
Number of pages 22
Journal Trauma, Violence, and Abuse
Volume 10
Issue number 4
State Published – Oct 1 2009
Externally published Yes

Link to the full research document

About S. R. Zelenz 119 Articles
S.R. Zelenz has worked in education for 20 years. Working with students from all walks of life, cultures, races, and social diversity, Zelenz’s research in Educational Leadership led to finding a better way to approach learning for students with trauma histories. Many were juvenile offenders, gang members, diagnosed with varying behavioral disorders, or had family histories of violence, murder, or narcissistic parenting. This research could not be effectively accomplished without further understanding: how epigenetic trauma inheritance may be impacting these students; how brain development from trauma may be impacting their behavioral and emotional development; as well as deep understanding of psychology and its varying classifications for behavioral and personality disorders. The goal is to find solutions for changing the conversation and making a real difference for these students. She has also worked with nonprofits of varying focus areas for the last 25 years. Her undergraduate degree in Arts Administration and Music prepared her for managing nonprofits of any size as well as procuring funding so that they can achieve their goals. Pairing her nonprofit background with her education background, she has been able to make a difference for over 200 nonprofits worldwide, written curriculum for schools across the globe, and assisted many arts organizations through performance and management.