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Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2009
18 pages
This report provides general information on brain development, the effects of abuse and neglect on brain development, and implications on policy and practice.
In recent years, there has been a surge of research into early brain 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. One lesson learned from the research on brain development is that environment has a powerful influence on development. Stable, nurturing caregivers and knowledgeable, supportive professionals can have a significant impact on these children's development. Focusing on preventing child abuse and neglect, helping to strengthen families, and ensuring that children receive needed services are some of the most important tasks to be undertaken. This report is divided into three main sections: (1) How the Brain Develops; (2) Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development; and (3) Implications for Practice and Policy. The information presented 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. References, resources, and survey