Effects of Maltreatement on Brain Development

Effects of Maltreatement on Brain Development

“Our brains are sculpted by our early experiences. Maltreatment is a chisel that shapes a brain to contend with strife, but at the cost of deep, enduring wounds.” --Teicher, 2000, p.67

In recent years, there has been a surge of research into early brain development. As recently as the1980s, many professionals thought that by the time babies are born, the structure of their brains was already genetically determined. The role of experience on the developing brain structure was under-appreciated, as was the active role of babies in their own brain development through interaction with their environment (Shore, 1997). While much of the research examining brain functioning has been done with animals, new technologies are enabling more non-invasive research to be done with humans. Although there is still much to learn, we now know much more about the brain's development and functioning. One area that has been receiving increasing research  attention involves the effects of abuse and neglect on the developing brain during infancy and early childhood. Much of this research is providing biological explanations for what practitioners have been describing in  pychological, emotional, and behavioral terms. We are beginning to see the 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.

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