The neurobiology of childhood trauma and abuse

Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2003 Apr;12(2):293-317, ix. doi: 10.1016/s1056-4993(03)00003-8.


During the past decade there has been rapid progress in the understanding of the effects of exposure to traumatic life experiences on subsequent psychopathology in children. Trauma exposure affects what children anticipate and focus on and how they organize the way they appraise and process information. Trauma-induced alterations in threat perception are expressed in how they think, feel, behave, and regulate their biologic systems. The task of therapy is to help these children develop a sense of physical mastery and awareness of who they are and what has happened to them to learn to observe what is happening in present time and physically respond to current demands instead of recreating the traumatic past behaviorally, emotionally, and biologically.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Development*
  • Humans
  • Personality Development
  • Prefrontal Cortex / growth & development
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy