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A review of childhood maltreatment, latent vulnerability and the brain: implications for clinical practice and prevention

Gerin, MI; Hanson, E; Viding, E; McCrory, EJ; (2019) A review of childhood maltreatment, latent vulnerability and the brain: implications for clinical practice and prevention. Adoption & Fostering , 43 (3) pp. 310-328. 10.1177/0308575919865356. Green open access

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Abstract

There is a well-established association between childhood maltreatment and later poor mental health and increasing recognition that we need to find ways to support children following such experiences to improve long-term outcomes. We suggest that the rationale for such a preventive approach is directly informed by the emerging findings from the field of functional neuroimaging. Here, we review the evidence from four neurocognitive systems: threat processing, reward processing, emotion regulation and executive control. We briefly summarise what is known about each system, review the evidence that altered functioning is implicated in common mental health problems and describe how the functioning of each system is altered following maltreatment. Across domains, these neurocognitive alterations following child maltreatment are in line with those seen in adults presenting with mental health problems yet most maltreated children studied do not have a presenting ‘disorder’. This suggests that these neurocognitive alterations may potentiate the risk of future psychopathology. We discuss this possibility in the context of the theory of latent vulnerability (McCrory and Viding, 2015). According to this model, children may respond to early adverse environments in ways that are potentially adaptive in the short term but which create vulnerability to future mental health problems in the long term. We also consider the clinical implications of the neuroimaging evidence ‒ in particular, the growing need for a more preventive clinical approach.

Type: Article
Title: A review of childhood maltreatment, latent vulnerability and the brain: implications for clinical practice and prevention
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/0308575919865356
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0308575919865356
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Child abuse, maltreatment, mental health, functional magnetic resonance imaging, resilience
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10084922
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