Future Directions in Childhood Adversity and Youth Psychopathology


McLaughlin, K. A. (2016). Future Directions in Childhood Adversity and Youth Psychopathology. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology , 45 (3), 361โ€“382.


Despite long-standing interest in the influence of adverse early experiences on mental health, systematic scientific inquiry into childhood adversity and developmental outcomes has emerged only recently. Existing research has amply demonstrated that exposure to childhood adversity is associated with elevated risk for multiple forms of youth psychopathology. In contrast, knowledge of developmental mechanisms linking childhood adversity to the onset of psychopathology-and whether those mechanisms are general or specific to particular kinds of adversity-remains cursory. Greater understanding of these pathways and identification of protective factors that buffer children from developmental disruptions following exposure to adversity is essential to guide the development of interventions to prevent the onset of psychopathology following adverse childhood experiences. This article provides recommendations for future research in this area. In particular, use of a consistent definition of childhood adversity, integration of studies of typical development with those focused on childhood adversity, and identification of distinct dimensions of environmental experience that differentially influence development are required to uncover mechanisms that explain how childhood adversity is associated with numerous psychopathology outcomes (i.e., multifinality) and identify moderators that shape divergent trajectories following adverse childhood experiences. A transdiagnostic model that highlights disruptions in emotional processing and poor executive functioning as key mechanisms linking childhood adversity with multiple forms of psychopathology is presented as a starting point in this endeavour. Distinguishing between general and specific mechanisms linking childhood adversity with psychopathology is needed to generate empirically informed interventions to prevent the long-term consequences of adverse early environments on children's development.

Last updated on 09/21/2018