Bringing basic research on early experience and stress neurobiology to bear on preventive interventions for neglected and maltreated children

Dev Psychopathol. Summer 2006;18(3):651-77.


A major focus in developmental psychopathology is on understanding developmental mechanisms and, armed with this information, intervening to improve children's outcomes. Translational research attempts to bridge the distance between understanding and intervention. In the collaborations that have formed the core of our research network on early experience, stress, and prevention science, we have focused on translating basic research on early experiences and stress neurobiology into preventive interventions for neglected and abused children. Our experiences in attempting to move from bench to bedside have led us to recognize the many challenges that face translational researchers. This review provides a brief synopsis of the animal model literature on early experience and stress neurobiology from which we glean several key bridging issues. We then review what is currently known about the impact of childhood neglect and abuse on stress neurobiology in human adults and children. Next, we describe how this work has informed the evaluation of our preventive interventions with maltreated children. Finally, we discuss several considerations that should facilitate a more complete integration of basic research on early experience and stress neurobiology into preventive intervention strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / metabolism
  • Adrenal Glands / physiopathology
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Stem / metabolism
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology
  • Caregivers
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control*
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Corticosterone / metabolism
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology
  • Infant
  • Life Change Events
  • Limbic System / metabolism
  • Limbic System / physiopathology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology
  • Preventive Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Research Design*
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*


  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Corticosterone