February 25, 2010 § Leave a comment
Early Abuse Tied to More Depression in Children ScienceDaily (Feb. 7, 2010) Although children can be depressed for many reasons, new evidence suggests that there are physiological differences among depressed children based on their experiences of abuse before age 5. Early abuse may be especially damaging due to the very young age at which it occurs….The study appears in the January/February 2010 issue of the journal Child Development.
Children who experience maltreatment, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse or neglect, grow up with a lot of stress. Cortisol, termed the “stress hormone,” helps the body regulate stress. But when stress is chronic and overloads the system, cortisol can soar to very high levels or plummet to lows, which in turn can harm development and health.
The researchers studied more than 500 low-income children ages 7 to 13, about half of whom had been abused and/or neglected, to find out whether abuse early in life and feelings of depression affected their levels of cortisol. High levels of depression were more frequent among children who were abused in the first five years of their lives than among maltreated children who weren’t abused early in life or children who weren’t maltreated at all.
More importantly, only children who were abused before age 5 and depressed had an atypical flattening of cortisol production during the day, whereas other children, whether they were depressed or not, showed an expected daily decline in cortisol from morning to afternoon….
“In the United States, more than 1.5 million children are abused and neglected every year, though it’s estimated that the actual rates are substantially greater,” according to Dante Cicchetti, McKnight Presidential Chair and professor of child development and psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, who led the study. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100205081811.htm