Neurobiological and Psychiatric Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect

Dev Psychobiol. 2010 Nov;52(7):671-90. doi: 10.1002/dev.20494.


The effects of early-life trauma and its consequences for the treatment of depression are reviewed. The prevalence and clinical sequelae of early sexual and physical abuse, neglect and parental loss are described. An overview of preclinical studies that help guide clinical research and practice is presented. Human clinical studies on the neurobiological consequences of early trauma are summarized. Moderating factors, such as genetic variation and sex differences, are discussed. The few current treatment outcome studies relevant to this research area are described. Guidance for the management of patients with depression and a history of child abuse and neglect are provided. Most patients who have experienced early traumatic experiences are likely best treated with a combination of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy. This review is dedicated to the memory of Seymour Levine who pioneered the field of early experience research and to a considerable extent inspired the clinical studies described in this review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Neurobiology
  • Psychotherapy*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*