The Biological Effects of Childhood Trauma

Michael D. De Bellis, Abigail Zisk

Despite the widespread prevalence of childhood trauma, less is known about trauma’s biological effects in children as compared to adults with child trauma histories; and even less is known about how these pediatric mechanisms underlie trauma’s short-term and long-term medical and mental health consequences. This article focuses primarily on the peer-reviewed literature on the neurobiological sequelae of childhood trauma in children and adults with histories of childhood trauma. We also review relevant studies of animal models of stress to help us better understand the psychobiological effects of trauma during development. Next, we review the neurobiology of trauma, its clinical applications and the biomarkers that may provide important tools for clinicians and researchers, both as predictors of posttraumatic stress symptoms and as useful tools to monitor treatment response.

… Such understanding of the neurobiology and genetic influences of child trauma on child development will lead to novel and effective approaches to treatments (e.g., personalized medicine).

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