Research has consistently demonstrated a link between the experience of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and adult health conditions, including mental and physical health problems. While a focus on the prevention or mitigation of adversity in childhood is an important direction of many programs, many individuals do not access support services until adulthood, when health problems may be fairly engrained. It is not clear which interventions have the strongest evidence base to support the many adults who present to services with a history of ACEs.
OBJECTIVE: This article provides an overview of research on the neurobiological correlates of childhood adversity and a selective review of treatment implications. METHOD: Findings from a broad array of human and animal studies of early adversity were reviewed. RESULTS: Topics reviewed include neuroendocrine, neurotrophic, neuroimaging, and cognitive effects of adversity, as well as genetic and epigenetic influences. Effects of early-life stress on treatment outcome are considered, and development of treatments designed to address the neurobiological abnormalities is discussed.
Animal studies have identified persistent and functional effects of traumatic stress on the epigenome. This review discusses the clinical evidence for trauma-induced changes in DNA methylation across the life span in humans. Studies are reviewed based on reports of trauma exposure during the prenatal period (13 studies), early life (20 studies), and adulthood (ten studies). Even though it is apparent that traumatic stress influences the human epigenome, there are significant drawbacks in the existing human literature.
The aim of this study was to explore the nature and dimensions of institutional child abuse (IA) by the Austrian Catholic Church and to investigate the current mental health of adult survivors. Data were collected in two steps. First, documents of 448 adult survivors of IA (M=55.1 years, 75.7% men) who had disclosed their abuse history to a victim protection commission were collected. Different types of abuse, perpetrator characteristics, and family related risk factors were investigated.