Recent brain research has established a foundation for many of the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional difficulties exhibited by children who experienced maltreatment in their early years. Maltreatment (child abuse or neglect) during infancy and early childhood has been shown to negatively affect early brain development and can have enduring repercussions into adolescence and adulthood.
The experiences of infancy and early childhood provide the organizing framework for the expression of children's intelligence, emotions, and personalities. When those experiences are primarily negative, children may develop emotional, behavioral, and learning problems that persist throughout their lifetime, especially in the absence of targeted interventions.
Building the Brain's "Air Traffic Control" System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function
Harvard University Center on the Developing Child (2011)
Explains how lifelong learning skills are developed in early childhood and stresses that these skills are imperative for healthy development in adolescent and adulthood. This paper also discuss what can disrupt the development of lifelong skills, and how supporting that development pays off in school and life.
Complex Trauma in Children and Adolescents (PDF - 508 KB)
Cook, Spinazzola, Ford, Lanktree, Blaustein, et al.
Focal Point, 21(1), 2007
Provides a core background for understanding the psychological and physiological effects of multiple traumatic stress experiences on the developing brain.
Early Development and the Brain: Teaching Resources for Educators
Gilkerson & Klein (2008)
Presents a curriculum addressing the basics of brain development and ways early childhood professionals can support caregivers to promote healthy child development.
The Enduring Effects of Abuse and Related Adverse Experiences in Childhood: A Convergence of Evidence From Neurobiology and Epidemiology
Anda, Felitti, Bremner, Walker, Whitfield, & Perry
European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 256(3), 2006
Reports on findings from the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study that were used to determine if experiencing child maltreatment increased risk for negative outcomes. Results showed that every domain increased, including memory.
Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain (PDF - 224 KB)
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2005)
Explores the biological impact of stress on fetal and early childhood brains, and offers policy recommendations for preventing the negative effects of stress.
From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development
Shonkoff & Phillips (Eds.) (2000)
The Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development, a project of the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, reviewed findings in neurobiology and the behavioral and social sciences about the roles of nature and nurture during the first 5 years of life.
The Neurobiological Toll of Child Abuse and Neglect
Neigh, Gillespie, & Nemeroff
Trauma, Violence, and Abuse: A Review Journal, 10(4), 2009
Addresses the impact of early life trauma and exposure to violence on psychiatric and other medical disorders.
The Psychobiology of Maltreatment in Childhood
Watts-English, Fortson, Gibler, Hooper, & De Bellis
Journal of Social Issues, 62(4), 2006
Examines the adverse impact of child maltreatment on neuropsychological outcomes in the developing child and addresses practice, research, and policy implications.
Sexual Abuse in the Preschool Years: Blending Ideas from Object Relations Theory, Ego Psychology, and Biology
Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 24(6), 2007
Uses two biological theoretical frameworks to identify developmental tasks that are affected by abuse and demonstrates a sample case.
Understanding the Effects of Childhood Trauma on Brain Development in Native Children (PDF - 1147 KB)
Tribal Law and Policy Institute (2005)
Helps victim advocates understand how trauma affects child development when abuse has occurred. The report also describes major components of the Historical Trauma and Unresolved Grief Intervention.