Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development

Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development

images (14)Children’s Bureau/ACYF/ACF/HHS
800.394.3366| Email: info@childwelfare.gov| https://www.childwelfare.gov

In recent years,there has been a surge of research into early brain development.Neuroimaging technologies,such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI),provide increased insight about how the brain develops and how early experiences affect that development.One area that has been receiving increasing research attention involves the effects of abuse and neglect on the developing brain,especially during infancy and early childhood.Much of this research is providing biological explanations for what practitioners have long been describing in psychological,emotional,and behavioral terms.There is now scientific evidence of altered brain functioning as a result of early abuse and neglect.This emerging body of knowledge has many implications for the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect.This issue brief provides basic information on typical brain development and the potential effects of abuse and neglect on that development.The information is designed to help professionals understand the emotional,mental,and behavioral impact of early abuse and neglect in children who come to the attention of the child welfare system.
How the Brain Develops
What we have learned about the process of brain development helps us understand more about the roles both genetics and the environment play in our development.It appears that genetics predispose us to develop in certain ways,but our experiences, including our interactions with other people,have a significant impact on how our predispositions are expressed.In fact,research now shows that many capacities thought to be fixed at birth are actually dependent on a sequence of experiences combined with heredity.Both factors are essential for optimum development of the human brain (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000).

Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development

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