The Effect of Early Life Stress on Adult Psychiatric Disorders

Innov Clin Neurosci. 2019 Jan 1;16(1-2):35-37.


There is a crisis of early childhood maltreatment in the United States. In 2012, the United States Department of Health and Human Services noted 3.4 million referrals to childhood protective services, of which the majority related to child abuse or neglect. Early life stress (ELS) due to childhood abuse and/or neglect can generate life-long consequences. ELS has been associated with disrupted neurodevelopment that can yield social, emotional, and cognitive impairment; adult medical and psychiatric disorders; disability; and even earlier death. Some studies have shown that adults with major depression and ELS respond less well to conventional treatments than adults who did not experience early life stress. In this article, we review some of the neurobiological and epigenetic studies that explore this association.

Keywords: Early life stress; adult psychiatric disorder; childhood abuse; major depressive disorder.

Publication types

  • Review