The biological effects of childhood trauma

Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2014 Apr;23(2):185-222, vii. doi: 10.1016/j.chc.2014.01.002. Epub 2014 Feb 16.


Trauma in childhood is a psychosocial, medical, and public policy problem with serious consequences for its victims and for society. Chronic interpersonal violence in children is common worldwide. Developmental traumatology, the systemic investigation of the psychiatric and psychobiological effects of chronic overwhelming stress on the developing child, provides a framework and principles when empirically examining the neurobiological effects of pediatric trauma. This article focuses on peer-reviewed literature on the neurobiological sequelae of childhood trauma in children and in adults with histories of childhood trauma.

Keywords: Biological stress systems; Brain development; Childhood trauma; Developmental psychopathology; Developmental traumatology; Genes; Posttraumatic stress symptoms; Stress.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Catecholamines / metabolism
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology*
  • Immune System / physiopathology
  • Life Change Events*
  • Locus Coeruleus / physiopathology
  • Oxytocin / metabolism
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology*
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology


  • Catecholamines
  • Serotonin
  • Oxytocin