Child abuse 'has serious consequences for brain development'
Sunday 22 June 2014
A new study recently published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has found an association between child abuse and the reduction of gray matter in the brain that is responsible for information processing.
Child abuse, also referred to as child maltreatment, describes all forms of physical and emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and any other exploitation that harms the health, development, dignity or survival of a child under the age of 18 years.
The World Health Organization (WHO) state that worldwide, around 20% of women and 5-10% of men report being sexually abused as children, while 23% of individuals report being physically abused during childhood....
The studies included 56 children or adolescents and 275 adults with a history of childhood abuse, as well as 56 children and 306 adults who had not been exposed to childhood maltreatment.
Using a 3D meta-analytical neuroimaging technique created by Radua - called "signed differential mapping" - the team was able to determine the volumes of gray matter in each individual.
They found that the individuals who had been exposed to childhood maltreatment had much smaller volumes of gray matter in certain brain areas, compared with those who had no history of child abuse....
Family violence leaves genetic imprint on children
June 17, 2014 Tulane University
Children in homes affected by violence, suicide, or the incarceration of a family member have significantly shorter telomeres -— a cellular marker of aging -- than those in stable households. The study suggests that the home environment is an important intervention target to reduce the biological impacts of adversity in the lives of young children.
Researchers discovered that children in homes affected by domestic violence, suicide or the incarceration of a family member have significantly shorter telomeres, which is a cellular marker of aging, than those in stable households. The findings are published online in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Telomeres are the caps at the end of chromosomes that keep them from shrinking when cells replicate. Shorter telomeres are linked to higher risks for heart disease, obesity, cognitive decline, diabetes, mental illness and poor health outcomes in adulthood. Researchers took genetic samples from 80 children ages 5 to 15 in New Orleans and interviewed parents about their home environments and exposures to adverse life events.
"Family-level stressors, such as witnessing a family member get hurt, created an environment that affected the DNA within the cells of the children," said lead author Dr. Stacy Drury, director of the Behavioral and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Laboratory at Tulane. "The greater the number of exposures these kids had in life, the shorter their telomeres were -- and this was after controlling for many other factors, including socioeconomic status, maternal education, parental age and the child's age."
S. S. Drury, E. Mabile, Z. H. Brett, K. Esteves, E. Jones, E. A. Shirtcliff, K. P. Theall. The Association of Telomere Length With Family Violence and Disruption. PEDIATRICS, 2014; 134 (1): e128 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-3415
The Association of Telomere Length With Family Violence and Disruption
Stacy S. Drury, MD, PhDa,
Emily Mabile, BAb,
Zoë H. Brett, PhDa,
Kyle Esteves, BAa,
Edward Jones, BAa,
Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff, PhDc, and
Katherine P. Theall, PhDb
....RESULTS: Cumulative exposure to interpersonal violence and family disruption was correlated with bTL. Controlling for other sociodemographic factors, bTL was significantly shorter in children with higher exposure to family violence and disruption. Witnessing family violence exerted a particularly potent impact. A significant gender interaction was found (ß = -0.0086, SE = 0.0031, z test= -2.79, P = .0053) and analysis revealed the effect only in girls.
CONCLUSIONS: bTL is a molecular biomarker of adversity and allostatic load that is detectable in childhood. The present results extend previous studies by demonstrating that telomeres are sensitive to adversity within the overarching family domain. These findings suggest that the family ecology may be an important target for interventions to reduce the biological impact of adversity in the lives of children.