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The impact of maltreatment on child development: Using neuroimaging approaches to investigate risk and resilience

Childhood maltreatment within the family home (physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect) remains a major public health and social welfare concern and has a profound impact on the individual and on society. Affected individuals are at an increased enduring risk of a range of psychiatric problems including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and conduct disorder (Gilbert et al, 2009).

However, there is limited understanding of the underlying mechanisms by which maltreatment heightens risk of psychiatric outcomes.

There is growing body of evidence that maltreatment is associated with structural and functional differences in the brain, which may underpin psychiatric vulnerability in adolescence and later life (McCrory, et al, 2011).

By investigating cortical structural abnormalities associated with maltreatment in childhood we hope to uncover the possible pathways that lead from maltreatment to psychopathology.