Early Life Stress and Pediatric Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Brain Sci. 2020 Mar 14;10(3):169. doi: 10.3390/brainsci10030169.


Traumatic stress exposure during critical periods of development may have essential and long-lasting effects on the physical and mental health of individuals. Two thirds of youth are exposed to potentially traumatic experiences by the age of 17, and approximately 5% of adolescents meet lifetime criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The role of the stress system is the maintenance of homeostasis in the presence of real/perceived and acute/chronic stressors. Early-life stress (ELS) has an impact on neuronal brain networks involved in stress reactions, and could exert a programming effect on glucocorticoid signaling. Studies on pediatric PTSD reveal diverse neuroendocrine responses to adverse events and related long-term neuroendocrine and epigenetic alterations. Neuroendocrine, neuroimaging, and genetic studies in children with PTSD and ELS experiences are crucial in understanding risk and resilience factors, and also the natural history of PTSD.

Keywords: HPA axis; adolescents; autonomic nervous system; catecholamines; children; cortisol; early life stress; posttraumatic stress disorder; stress.

Publication types

  • Review