Colich, N. L., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2022). Accelerated pubertal development as a mechanism linking trauma exposure with depression and anxiety in adolescenceAuthor links open overlay panel. Current Opinion in Psychology , 46, 1-6. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Exposure to early-life adversity (ELA) is associated with elevated risk for depression and anxiety disorders in adolescence. Identifying mechanisms through which ELA contributes to the emergence of depression and anxiety is necessary to design preventive interventions. One potential mechanism linking exposure to ELA with psychopathology is accelerated pubertal development. Exposure to trauma—specifically interpersonal violence—is associated with earlier pubertal timing, which in turn predicts adolescent-onset depression and anxiety disorders. We review the recent literature on adversity and accelerated pubertal development, exploring specific associations between trauma and accelerated pubertal development as a mechanism linking adversity with depression and anxiety disorders in adolescence. Finally, we suggest future directions for research exploring mechanisms linking ELA with accelerated pubertal development as well as pubertal timing and psychopathology in adolescence.
Sumner, J. A., Gambazza, S., Gao, X., Baccarelli, A. A., Uddin, M., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2022). Epigenetics of early-life adversity in youth: cross-sectional and longitudinal associations. Clinical Epigenetics , 14 (48), 1-12. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background: Altered DNA methylation (DNAm) may be one pathway through which early-life adversity (ELA) contributes to adverse mental and physical health outcomes. This study investigated whether the presence versus absence of ELA experiences reflecting the dimensions of threat and deprivation were associated with epigenome- wide DNAm cross-sectionally and longitudinally in a community-based sample of children and adolescents.

Methods: In 113 youths aged 8–16 years with wide variability in ELA, we examined associations of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional; indicating threat-related experiences) and neglect (emotional, physical; indicating deprivation- related experiences) with DNAm assessed with the Illumina EPIC BeadChip array, with DNA derived from saliva. In cross-sectional epigenome-wide analyses, we investigated associations of lifetime abuse and neglect with DNAm at baseline. In longitudinal epigenome-wide analyses, we examined whether experiencing abuse and neglect over an approximately 2-year follow-up were each associated with change in DNAm from baseline to follow-up.

Results: In cross-sectional analyses adjusting for lifetime experience of neglect, lifetime experience of abuse was associated with DNAm for four cytosine-phosphodiester-guanine (CpG) sites (cg20241299: coefficient = 0.023,
SE = 0.004; cg08671764: coefficient = 0.018, SE = 0.003; cg27152686: coefficient = − 0.069, SE = 0.012; cg24241897: coefficient = − 0.003, SE = 0.001; FDR < .05). In longitudinal analyses, experiencing neglect over follow-up was associ- ated with an increase in DNAm for one CpG site, adjusting for abuse over follow-up (cg03135983: coefficient = 0.036, SE = 0.006; FDR < .05).

Conclusions: In this study, we identified examples of epigenetic patterns associated with ELA experiences of threat and deprivation that were already observable in youth. We provide novel evidence for change in DNAm over time in relation to ongoing adversity and that experiences reflecting distinct ELA dimensions may be characterized by unique epigenetic patterns.

Keywords: Threat, Deprivation, Abuse, Neglect, DNA methylation


DeCross, S. N., Sambrook, K. A., Sheridan, M. A., Tottenham, N., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2022). Dynamic alterations in neural networks supporting aversive learning in children exposed to trauma: neural mechanisms underlying psychopathology. Biological Psychiatry , 91 (7), 667-675. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Altered aversive learning represents a potential mechanism through which childhood trauma (CT) might influence risk for psychopathology. This study examines the temporal dynamics of neural activation and patterns of functional connectivity during aversive learning in children with and without exposure to CT involving interpersonal violence and evaluates whether these neural patterns mediate the association of CT with psychopathology in a longitudinal design.
Romeo, R. R., Flournoy, J. C., McLaughlin, K. A., & Lengua, L. J. (2022). Language development as a mechanism linking socioeconomic status to executive functioning development in preschool. Developmental Science , 1 - 12. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Childhood socioeconomic status (SES) is related to disparities in the development of both language and executive functioning (EF) skills. Emerging evidence suggests that language development may precede and provide necessary scaffolding for EF development in early childhood. The present preregistered study investigates how these skills co-develop longitudinally in early childhood and whether language development explains the relationship between SES and EF development. A socioeconomically diverse sample of 305 children completed repeated assessments of language (sentence comprehension) and EF (cognitive flexibility, behavioral inhibition, and cognitive inhibition) at four waves spaced 9 months apart from ages 3 to 5 years. Bivariate latent curve models with structured residuals were estimated to disaggregate between-person and within-person components of stability and change. Results revealed bidirectional relationships between language and EF across all waves. However, at 3 years, language comprehension more strongly predicted EF than the reverse; yet by 5 years, the bidirectional effects across domains did not significantly differ. Children from higher-SES backgrounds exhibited higher initial language and EF skills than children from lower-SES families, though SES was not associated with either rate of growth. Finally, early language-mediated the association between SES and early EF skills, and this model outperformed a reverse direction mediation. Together, results suggest that EF development is driven by early language development, and that SES disparities in EF are explained, at least in part, by early differences in language comprehension. These findings have implications for early interventions to support children's language skills as a potential pathway to improving early EF development.
McLaughlin, K. A., & Gabard-Durnam, L. J. (2022). Experience-Driven Plasticity and the Emergence of Psychopathology: A Mechanistic Framework Integrating Development and the Environment into the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Model. Journal of Abnormal Psychology , 575 - 587. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Despite the clear importance of a developmental perspective for understanding the emergence of psychopathology across the life-course, such a perspective has yet to be integrated into the RDoC model. In this paper, we articulate a framework that incorporates developmentally-specific learning mechanisms that reflect experience-driven plasticity as additional units of analysis in the existing RDoC matrix. These include both experience-expectant learning mechanisms that occur during sensitive periods of development and experience-dependent learning mechanisms that may exhibit substantial variation across development. Incorporating these learning mechanisms allows for clear integration not only of development but also environmental experience into the RDoC model. We demonstrate how individual differences in environmental experiences—such as early-life adversity—can be leveraged to identify experience-driven plasticity patterns across development and apply this framework to consider how environmental experience shapes key biobehavioral processes that comprise the RDoC model. This framework provides a structure for understanding how affective, cognitive, social, and neurobiological processes are shaped by experience across development and ultimately contribute to the emergence of psychopathology. We demonstrate how incorporating an experience-driven plasticity framework is critical for understanding the development of many processes subsumed within the RDoC model, which will contribute to greater understanding of developmental variation in the etiology of psychopathology and can be leveraged to identify potential windows of heightened developmental plasticity when clinical interventions might be maximally efficacious.
Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Weissman, D. G., McKetta, S., Lattanner, M. R., Ford, J. V., Barch, D. M., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2022). Smaller Hippocampal Volume Among Black and Latinx Youth Living in High-Stigma Contexts. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry , 61 (6), 809 - 819. Publisher's VersionAbstract


To determine whether structural and individual forms of stigma are associated with neurodevelopment in children.


Stigma related to gender, race, and Latinx ethnicity was measured at the structural level using objective state-level indicators of social policies and prejudicial attitudes and at the individual level using self-reports of perceived discrimination. Respective associations of stigma with hippocampal volume and amygdala reactivity to threat were examined using data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study (N = 11,534, mean age 9.9 years), the first multisite neuroimaging study that provided substantial variability in sociopolitical contexts and that included individual-level measures of stigma among youth.


In a preregistered analysis, Black (B = −58.26, p = .023) and Latinx (B = −40.10, p = .044) youths in higher (vs lower) structural stigma contexts were found to have smaller hippocampal volume, controlling for total intracranial volume, demographics, and family socioeconomic status. This association was also observed at a trend-level among girls (p = .082). The magnitude of the difference in hippocampal volume between high and low structural stigma states was equivalent to the predicted impact of a $20,000 difference in annual family income in this sample. As hypothesized, structural stigma was not associated with hippocampal volume in nonstigmatized youths, providing evidence of specificity. Perceived discrimination was unrelated to hippocampal volume in stigmatized groups. No associations between perceived discrimination or structural stigma and amygdala reactivity to threat were observed.


This study provides novel evidence that an objective measure of structural stigma may be more strongly related to hippocampal volume than subjective perceptions of stigma, suggesting that contextual approaches to stigma could yield new insights into neurodevelopment among marginalized youth.

Bryce, N., Flournoy, J., Gaussi - Moreira, J. F., Rosen, M. L., Sambrook, K. A., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2021). Brain parcellation selection: An overlooked decision point with meaningful effects on individual differences in resting-state functional connectivity. NeuroImage , (243), 1-15. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Over the past decade extensive research has examined the segregation of the human brain into large-scale functional networks. The resulting network maps, i.e. parcellations, are now commonly used for the a priori identification of functional networks. However, the use of these parcellations, particularly in developmental and clinical samples, hinges on four fundamental assumptions: (1) the various parcellations are equally able to recover the networks of interest; (2) adult-derived parcellations well represent the networks in children's brains; (3) network properties, such as within-network connectivity, are reliably measured across parcellations; and (4) parcellation selection does not impact the results with regard to individual differences in given network properties. In the present study we examined these assumptions using eight common parcellation schemes in two independent developmental samples. We found that the parcellations are equally able to capture networks of interest in both children and adults. However, networks bearing the same name across parcellations (e.g., default network) do not produce reliable within-network measures of functional connectivity. Critically, parcellation selection significantly impacted the magnitude of associations of functional connectivity with age, poverty, and cognitive ability, producing meaningful differences in interpretation of individual differences in functional connectivity based on parcellation choice. Our findings suggest that work employing parcellations may benefit from the use of multiple schemes to confirm the robustness and generalizability of results. Furthermore, researchers looking to gain insight into functional networks may benefit from employing more nuanced network identification approaches such as using densely-sampled data to produce individual-derived network parcellations. A transition towards precision neuroscience will provide new avenues in the characterization of functional brain organization across development and within clinical populations.
Keding, T. J., Heyn, S. A., Russell, J. D., Zhu, X., Cisler, J., McLaughlin, K. A., & Herringa, R. J. (2021). Differential Patterns of Delayed Emotion Circuit Maturation in Abused Girls With and Without Internalizing Psychopathology. American Journal of Psychiatry , 178 (11), 1026 - 1036. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Objective: Childhood abuse represents one of the most potent risk factors for developing psychopathology, espe- cially in females. Evidence suggests that exposure to early-life adversity may be related to advanced maturation of emotion processing neural circuits. However, it remains unknown whether abuse is related to early circuit matura- tion and whether maturation patterns depend on the pres- ence of psychopathology.

Methods: A multisite sample of 234 girls (ages 8–18 years) completed clinical assessment, maltreatment histories, and high-resolution T1-weighted structural MRI. Girls were stratified by abuse history and internalizing disorder diag- nosis into typically developing (no abuse/no diagnosis), resilient (abuse/no diagnosis), and susceptible (abuse/ current diagnosis) groups. Machine learning models of nor- mative brain development were aggregated in a stacked generalization framework trained to predict chronological age using gray matter volume in whole-brain, emotion, and language circuit parcellations. Brain age gap estima- tions (BrainAGEs; predicted age minus true chronological age) were calculated as indices of relative circuit maturation.

Results: Childhood abuse was related to reduced Brain- AGE (delayed maturation) specific to emotion circuits. Delayed emotion circuit BrainAGE was further related to increased hyperarousal symptoms. Childhood physical neglect was associated with increased whole-brain BrainAGE (advanced maturation). Neural contributors to emotion circuit BrainAGE differed in girls with and with- out an internalizing diagnosis, especially in the lateral prefrontal, parietal, and insular cortices and the hippocampus.

Conclusions: Abuse exposure in girls is associated with a delayed structural maturation pattern specific to emotion circuitry, a potentially adaptive mechanism enhancing threat generalization. Physical neglect, on the other hand, is associated with a broader brain-wide pattern of advanced structural maturation. The differential influence of fronto- parietal cortices and the hippocampus on emotion circuit maturity in resilient girls may represent neurodeve- lopmental markers of reduced psychiatric risk following abuse.

Zheng, Y., & et al.,. (2021). Trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder modulate polygenic predictors of hippocampal and amygdala volume. Translational Psychiatry , 11 (637). Publisher's VersionAbstract
The volume of subcortical structures represents a reliable, quantitative, and objective phenotype that captures genetic effects, environmental effects such as trauma, and disease effects such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Trauma and PTSD represent potent exposures that may interact with genetic markers to influence brain structure and function. Genetic variants, associated with subcortical volumes in two large normative discovery samples, were used to compute polygenic scores (PGS) for the volume of seven subcortical structures. These were applied to a target sample enriched for childhood trauma and PTSD. Subcortical volume PGS from the discovery sample were strongly associated in our trauma/PTSD enriched sample (n = 7580) with respective subcortical volumes of the hippocampus (p = 1.10 × 10−20), thalamus (p = 7.46 × 10−10), caudate (p = 1.97 × 10−18), putamen (p = 1.7 × 10−12), and nucleus accumbens (p = 1.99 × 10−7). We found a significant association between the hippocampal volume PGS and hippocampal volume in control subjects from our sample, but was absent in individuals with PTSD (GxE; (beta = −0.10, p = 0.027)). This significant GxE (PGS × PTSD) relationship persisted (p < 1 × 10−19) in four out of five threshold peaks (0.024, 0.133, 0.487, 0.730, and 0.889) used to calculate hippocampal volume PGSs. We detected similar GxE (G × ChildTrauma) relationships in the amygdala for exposure to childhood trauma (rs4702973; p = 2.16 × 10−7) or PTSD (rs10861272; p = 1.78 × 10−6) in the CHST11 gene. The hippocampus and amygdala are pivotal brain structures in mediating PTSD symptomatology. Trauma exposure and PTSD modulate the effect of polygenic markers on hippocampal volume (GxE) and the amygdala volume PGS is associated with PTSD risk, which supports the role of amygdala volume as a risk factor for PTSD.
Rosen, M. L., Lurie, L. A., Sambrook, K. A., Melzoff, A. N., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2021). Neural mechanisms underlying the income-achievement gap: The role of the ventral visual stream. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience , 52. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Children from low-socioeconomic status (SES) households on average exhibit lower academic achievement than their higher-SES peers. We investigated a novel hypothesis that differences in early-developing sensory networks—specifically the ventral visual stream (VVS), which is involved in processing visual stimuli—contribute to SES-related disparities in executive functions (EF) and academic outcomes. We used fMRI to investigate SES-related differences in neural function in children (6–8 years, n = 62) during two attentional tasks involving attention to visual information: cued attention and memory-guided attention. Recruitment of VVS during both tasks was associated with EF and academic achievement, and SES-related differences in VVS activation during cued attention were marginally explained by differences in cognitive stimulation. VVS activation during cued attention mediated SES-related differences in academic achievement. Finally, the link between VVS activation during both tasks and academic achievement was mediated by differences in EF. We extend previous work by highlighting that: (i) early-developing visual processing regions play a role in supporting complex attentional processes, (ii) childhood SES is associated with VVS function, which is explained in part by SES-related differences in cognitive stimulation and (iii) provide preliminary evidence that individual differences in VVS function may play a role in the emergence of the income-achievement gap.
Grummitt, L. R., Kreski, N. T., Kim, S. G., Platt, J., Keyes, K. M., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2021). Association of Childhood Adversity With Morbidity and Mortality in US Adults: A Systematic Review. JAMA Pediatrics , 175 (12), 1269-1278. Publisher's VersionAbstract

IMPORTANCE Childhood adversity (CA) is a powerful determinant of long-term physical and mental health that is associated with elevated risk for chronic disease and psychopathology. However, the degree to which CA contributes to mortality as a preventable driver of ill-health and death is unknown.

OBJECTIVE To estimate the contribution of CA to health behaviors, including smoking and sedentary behavior, as well as the annual mortality attributable to CA in the US through influences on leading causes of death (eg, cardiovascular disease).

EVIDENCE REVIEW For this systematic review, the PsycINFO and MEDLINE databases were searched on November 15, 2019. The databases were searched for publications from inception (1806 for PsycINFO, 1946 for MEDLINE) to November 15, 2019. Meta-analyses of the associations between CA and morbidity outcomes were included. The population attributable fraction (PAF) was calculated from these associations along with the estimated US prevalence of CA. The PAF was then applied to the number of annual deaths associated with each cause of death to estimate the number of deaths that are attributable to CA. Additionally, the PAF was applied to the incidence of health behaviors to derive the number of cases attributable to CA. Exposure to 1 or more experiences of adversity before the age of 18 years was analyzed, including abuse, neglect, family violence, and economic adversity.

FINDINGS A total of 19 meta-analyses with 20 654 832 participants were reviewed. Childhood adversity accounted for approximately 439 072 deaths annually in the US, or 15% of the total US mortality in 2019 (2 854 838 deaths), through associations with leading causes of death (including heart disease, cancer, and suicide). In addition, CA was associated with millions of cases of unhealthy behaviors and disease markers, including more than 22 million cases of sexually transmitted infections, 21 million cases of illicit drug use, 19 million cases of elevated inflammation, and more than 10 million cases each of smoking and physical inactivity. The greatest proportion of outcomes attributable to CA were for suicide attempts and sexually transmitted infections, for which adversity accounted for up to 38% and 33%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE The results of this systematic review suggest that CA is a leading contributor to morbidity and mortality in the US and may be considered a preventable determinant of mortality. The prevention of CA and the intervention on pathways that link these e

Rodman, A., Bustamante, C. M. V., Dennison, M. J., Flournoy, J. C., Coppersmith, D. D. L., Nook, E. C., & Worthington, S. (2021). A Year in the Social Life of a Teenager: Within-Persons Fluctuations in Stress, Phone Communication, and Anxiety and Depression. Clinical Psychological Science , 9 (5), 791–809. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Stressful life events (SLEs) are strongly associated with the emergence of adolescent anxiety and depression, but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood, especially at the within-persons level. We investigated how adolescent social communication (i.e., frequency of calls and texts) following SLEs relates to changes in internalizing symptoms in a multitimescale, intensive, year-long study (N = 30; n = 355 monthly observations; n ≈ 5,000 experiencesampling observations). Within-persons increases in SLEs were associated with receiving more calls than usual at both the month and moment levels and making more calls at the month level. Increased calls were prospectively associated with worsening internalizing symptoms at the month level only, suggesting that SLEs rapidly influence phone communication patterns, but these communication changes may have a more protracted, cumulative influence on internalizing symptoms. Finally, increased incoming calls prospectively mediated the association between SLEs and anxiety at the month level. We identify adolescent social communication fluctuations as a potential mechanism conferring risk for stress-related internalizing psychopathology
McLaughlin, K. A., Sheridan, M. A., Humphreys, K. L., Belsky, J., & Ellis, B. J. (2021). The Value of Dimensional Models of Early Experience: Thinking Clearly About Concepts and Categories. Perspectives on Psychological Science , 16 (6), 1463 - 1472. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We review the three prevailing approaches—specificity, cumulative risk, and dimensional models—to conceptualizing the developmental consequences of early-life adversity and address fundamental problems with the characterization of these frameworks in a recent Perspectives on Psychological Science piece by Smith and Pollak. We respond to concerns raised by Smith and Pollak about dimensional models of early experience and highlight the value of these models for studying the developmental consequences of early-life adversity. Basic dimensions of adversity proposed in existing models include threat/harshness, deprivation, and unpredictability. These models identify core dimensions of early experience that cut across the categorical exposures that have been the focus of specificity and cumulative risk approaches (e.g., abuse, institutional rearing, chronic poverty); delineate aspects of early experience that are likely to influence brain and behavioral development; afford hypotheses about adaptive and maladaptive responses to different dimensions of adversity; and articulate specific mechanisms through which these dimensions exert their influences, conceptualizing experience-driven plasticity within an evolutionary-developmental framework. In doing so, dimensional models advance specific falsifiable hypotheses, grounded in neurodevelopmental and evolutionary principles, that are supported by accumulating evidence and provide fertile ground for empirical studies on early-life adversity.
Susman, E. S., Weissman, D. G., Sheridan, M. A., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2021). High vagal tone and rapid extinction learning as potential transdiagnostic protective factors following childhood violence exposure. Developmental Psychobiology , 1-14. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Childhood exposure to violence is strongly associated with psychopathology. High
resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) is associated with lower levels of psychopathology in children exposed to violence. High RSA may help to protect against psychopathology by facilitating fear extinction learning, allowing more flexible autonomic responses to learned threat and safety cues. In this study, 165 youth (79 female, aged 9–17; 86 exposed to violence) completed assessments of violence exposure, RSA, and psychopathology, and a fear extinction learning task; 134 participants returned and completed psychopathology assessments 2 years later. Resting RSA moderated the longitudinal association of violence exposure with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and externalizing psychopathology, such that the association was weaker among youths with higher RSA. Higher skin conductance responses (SCR) during extinction learning to the threat cue (CS+) was associated with higher internalizing symptoms at follow-up and greater SCR to the safety cue (CS–) was associated with higher PTSD, internalizing, and externalizing symptoms, as well as the p-factor, controlling for baseline symptoms. Findings suggest that higher RSA may protect against emergence of psychopathology among children exposed to violence. Moreover, difficulty extinguishing learned threat responses and elevated autonomic responses to safety cues may be associated with risk for future psychopathology.
Gruber, J., Prinstein, M. J., Clark, L. A., Rottenberg, J., Abramowitz, J. S., Albano, A. M., Aldao, A., et al. (2021). Mental health and clinical psychological science in the time of COVID-19: Challenges, opportunities, and a call to action. The American Psychologist , 76 (3), 409-426. Publisher's VersionAbstract
COVID-19 presents significant social, economic, and medical challenges. Because COVID-19 has already begun to precipitate huge increases in mental health problems, clinical psychological science must assert a leadership role in guiding a national response to this secondary crisis. In this article, COVID-19 is conceptualized as a unique, compounding, multidimensional stressor that will create a vast need for intervention and necessitate new paradigms for mental health service delivery and training. Urgent challenge areas across developmental periods are discussed, followed by a review of psychological symptoms that likely will increase in prevalence and require innovative solutions in both science and practice. Implications for new research directions, clinical approaches, and policy issues are discussed to highlight the opportunities for clinical psychological science to emerge as an updated, contemporary field capable of addressing the burden of mental illness and distress in the wake of COVID-19 and beyond.
Rosen, M. L., Rodman, A., Kasparek, S. W., Mayes, M., Freeman, M. M., Lengua, L. J., Meltzoff, A. N., et al. (2021). Promoting youth mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: A longitudinal study. PLoS One , 16 (8). Publisher's VersionAbstract
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced novel stressors into the lives of youth. Identifying factors that protect against the onset of psychopathology in the face of these stressors is critical. We examine a wide range of factors that may protect youth from developing psychopathology during the pandemic. We assessed pandemic-related stressors, internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, and potential protective factors by combining two longitudinal samples of children and adolescents (N = 224, 7–10 and 13–15 years) assessed prior to the pandemic, during the stay-at-home orders, and six months later. We evaluated how family behaviors during the stay-at-home orders were related to changes in psychopathology during the pandemic, identified factors that moderate the association of pandemic-related stressors with psychopathology, and determined whether associations varied by age. Internalizing and externalizing psychopathology increased substantially during the pandemic. Higher exposure to pandemic-related stressors was associated with increases in internalizing and externalizing symptoms early in the pandemic and six months later. Having a structured routine, less passive screen time, lower exposure to news media about the pandemic, and to a lesser extent more time in nature and getting adequate sleep were associated with reduced psychopathology. The association between pandemic-related stressors and psychopathology was reduced for youths with limited passive screen time and was absent for children, but not adolescents, with lower news media consumption related to the pandemic. We provide insight into simple, practical steps families can take to promote resilience against mental health problems in youth during the COVID-19 pandemic and protect against psychopathology following pandemic-related stressors.
Johnson, D., Policelli, J., Li, M., Dharamsi, A., Hu, Q., Sheridan, M. A., McLaughlin, K. A., et al. (2021). Associations of Early-Life Threat and Deprivation With Executive Functioning in Childhood and Adolescence: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics , 175 (11), 1-10. Publisher's VersionAbstract

IMPORTANCE Many studies have demonstrated an association between early-life adversity (ELA) and executive functioning in children and adolescents. However, the aggregate magnitude of this association is unknown in the context of threat and deprivation types of adversity and various executive functioning domains.

OBJECTIVE To test the hypothesis that experiences of deprivation are more strongly associated with reduced executive functioning compared with experiences of threat during childhood and adolescence.

DATA SOURCES Embase, ERIC, MEDLINE, and PsycInfo databases were searched from inception to December 31, 2020. Both forward and reverse snowball citation searches were performed to identify additional articles.

STUDY SELECTION Articles were selected for inclusion if they (1) had a child and/or adolescent sample, (2) included measures of ELA, (3) measured executive functioning, (4) evaluated the association between adversity and executive functioning, (5) were published in a peer-reviewed journal, and (6) were published in the English language. No temporal or geographic limits were set. A 2-reviewer, blinded screening process was conducted.

DATA EXTRACTION AND SYNTHESIS PRISMA guidelines were used to guide data extraction and article diagnostics (for heterogeneity, small study bias, and p-hacking). Article quality was assessed, and data extraction was performed by multiple independent observers. A 3-level meta-analytic model with a restricted maximum likelihood method was used. Moderator analyses were conducted to explore heterogeneity.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Primary outcomes included measures of the 3 domains of executive functioning: cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control, and working memory.

RESULTS A total of 91 articles were included, representing 82 unique cohorts and 31 188 unique individuals. Deprivation, compared with threat, was associated with significantly lower inhibitory control (F1,90 = 5.69; P = .02) and working memory (F1,54 = 5.78; P = .02). No significant difference was observed for cognitive flexibility (F1,36 = 2.38; P = .12). The pooled effect size of the association of inhibitory control with deprivation was stronger (Hedges g = −0.43; 95% CI, −0.57 to −0.29) compared with threat (Hedges g = −0.27; 95% CI, −0.46 to −0.08). The pooled effect size of the association of working memory with deprivation was stronger (Hedges g = −0.54; 95% CI, −0.75 to −0.33) compared with threat (Hedges g = −0.28; 95% CI, −0.51 to −0.05).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Experiences of both threat and deprivation in childhood and adolescence were associated with reduced executive functioning, but the association was stronger for exposure to deprivation. Efforts to address the consequences of ELA for development should consider the associations between specific dimensions of adversity and specific developmental outcomes.

Weissman, D. G., Nook, E. C., Dews, A. A., Miller, A. B., Lambert, H. K., Sasse, S. F., Somerville, L. H., et al. (2021). Low emotional awareness as a transdiagnostic mechanism underlying psychopathology in adolescence. Clinical Psychological Science , 8 (6), 971-988. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The ability to identify and label one’s emotions is associated with effective emotion regulation, rendering emotional awareness important for mental health. We evaluated how emotional awareness was related to psychopathology and whether low emotional awareness was a transdiagnostic mechanism explaining the increase in psychopathology during the transition to adolescence and as a function of childhood trauma—specifically, violence exposure. In Study 1, children and adolescents (N = 120, age range = 7–19 years) reported on emotional awareness and psychopathology. Emotional awareness was negatively associated with psychopathology (p-factor) and worsened across age in females but not males. In Study 2 (N = 262, age range = 8–16 years), we replicated these findings and demonstrated longitudinally that low emotional awareness mediated increases in p-factor as a function of age in females and violence exposure. These findings indicate that low emotional awareness may be a transdiagnostic mechanism linking adolescent development, sex, and trauma with the emergence of psychopathology.
Weissman, D., Rodman, A., Rosen, M. L., Kasparek, S. W., Mayes, M., Sheridan, M., Lengua, L., et al. (2021). Contributions of emotion regulation and brain structure and function to adolescent internalizing problems and stress vulnerability during the COVID-19 pandemic: A longitudinal study. Biological Psychiatry: Global Open Science , 1 (4), 272 - 282. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Adolescence is a period of increased vulnerability for internalizing problems,

particularly following exposure to stressful life events. We examine how patterns of emotion regulation and brain structure and function predict internalizing problems during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as moderate the association between pandemic-related stressors andvinternalizing problems.


Data are from a longitudinal sample (N=145, aged 10-15) strategically assessed at three crucial timepoints: prior to the pandemic, early during the stay-at-home order period, and again six months later. We examined associations of neural structure and function during an emotional processing task prior to the pandemic, use of emotion regulation strategies prior to and during the pandemic, and pandemic-related stressors with internalizing problems.


Greater exposure to pandemic-related stressors was associated with higher levels of internalizing symptoms both early (ß = .437, p<.001) and later (ß = .225, p = .004) in the pandemic. Youth who reported more frequent use of maladaptive emotion regulation strategies, including rumination (ß = .204,p = .026) and expressive suppression (ß = .177, p = .023), also had higherinternalizing problems. Higher left amygdala activation to neutral relative to fearful faces prior tothe pandemic was associated with greater internalizing symptoms (ß =-.229, p = .007), and astrongerrelation between pandemic-related stressors and internalizing problems (ß = -.186, p = .014).


Pandemic-related stressors are strongly associated with internalizing problems in adolescents, and individual differences in emotional reactivity and regulation and their underlying neural mechanisms contribute to stress-related vulnerability. Interventions that reduce pandemic-related stressors and foster adaptive emotion regulation skills may protect against adolescent psychopathology during this period of heightened exposure to stress.

Guassi Moreira, J. F., Mclaughlin, K. A., & Silvers, J. A. (2021). Characterizing the Network Architecture of Emotion Regulation Neurodevelopment. Cerebral Cortex , 31 (9), 4140-4150. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The ability to regulate emotions is key to goal attainment and well-being. Although much has been discovered about neurodevelopment and the acquisition of emotion regulation, very little of this work has leveraged information encoded in whole-brain networks. Here we employed a network neuroscience framework to parse the neural underpinnings of emotion regulation skill acquisition, while accounting for age, in a sample of children and adolescents (N = 70, 34 female, aged 8–17 years). Focusing on three key network metrics—network differentiation, modularity, and community number differences between active regulation and a passive emotional baseline—we found that the control network, the default mode network, and limbic network were each related to emotion regulation ability while controlling for age. Greater network differentiation in the control and limbic networks was related to better emotion regulation ability. With regards to network community structure (modularity and community number), more communities and more crosstalk between modules (i.e., less modularity) in the control network were associated with better regulatory ability. By contrast, less crosstalk (i.e., greater modularity) between modules in the default mode network was associated with better regulatory ability. Together, these findings highlight whole-brain connectome features that support the acquisition of emotion regulation in youth.