How can emerging evidence improve prevention, care and treatment of children who have been affected by maltreatment?

7th December 2016 By: Davina Metters

On Friday, 2nd December the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families hosted an international “Child Maltreatment: New Frontiers in Research & Practice” conference at the Friends House, Euston.

Attended by over 250 delegates from across 19 countries, the conference brought together leading international experts in psychological treatment, social care, neuroscience and policy to consider how emerging evidence can improve prevention, care and treatment of children who have been affected by maltreatment.

The morning focussed on recent advances in research in the field of childhood maltreatment. Professor Eamon McCrory opened the conference by introducing the concept of Latent Vulnerability as a way of understanding the enduring effects of threatening, unpredictable, or neglectful early environments. Dr Charlotte Cecil explored how adverse experiences may ‘get under the skin’ through so-called ‘epigentic’ changes to gene expression and how these changes may increase risk of poor health. We were delighted to welcome Professor Dante Cicchetti from the University of Minnesota who reviewed recent multilevel investigations that incorporate genetic, neural, physiological and psychological domains and the implications of these on interventions. Professor Peter Fonagy highlighted the importance of fully understanding the mechanisms by which adverse childhood experience leads to poor adult outcome in order to improve the effectiveness of treatment techniques.

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The afternoon focussed on sharing the latest developments in treatment approaches with children who have experienced abuse and neglect. Tracey Kayne reviewed the experience of delivering Multisystemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect (MST-CAN) in Leeds. Dr Roslyn Law outlined an evidence based-interpersonal approach to treating post traumatic disorders and Dr Dickon Bevington & David Trickey outlined the similarities and differences of Cognitive Model of PTSD and AMBIT approaches and whether it is possible to connect the two models in a way which will benefit more traumatised young people. A short film highlighted the experiences of young people growing up in care and was discussed as part of a panel discussion with care leavers, clinicians and social workers.

Conference directors said:

"It really was a privilege to be part of a day when many of us were so stimulated and challenged. The serious impact of maltreatment is well known, but thinking together as researchers and clinicians about how to better help and support children and young people felt extremely inspiring. For me highlights included thinking about the different ways we can think about latent vulnerability, the emerging field of epigenetics,  and learning about new approaches to promoting the child's capacity to engage the social system around them to boost resilience. However, the voices of the young people at the conference were the most powerful and were an important reminder that all of our work is about helping children who may have experienced adversity feel truly valued, supported and cared for in the same way that we would expect for all children in our society." Professor Eamon McCrory, Director of Postgraduate Studies & Consultant Clinical Psychologist

“I feel proud to have co-directed this conference on Maltreatment and to have helped bring together inspirational and innovative thinkers from the world of research and clinical practice. The highlight of the day for me was presenting the work of young care leavers and celebrating their remarkable resilience. I hope that their voices will have an impact on both how we practice, and the research questions we ask in the future.” Dr Sheila Redfern, Head of Service: Trauma & Maltreatment

We will shortly be sharing Professor Eamon McCrory’s presentation from the day via our Anna Freud Learning Network. To find out more or join, please visit Network