Annual Research Review: Early adversity, the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenocortical axis, and child psychopathology

Kalsea J. Koss, Megan R. Gunnar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Research on early adversity, stress biology, and child development has grown exponentially in recent years. Findings: We review the current evidence for the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenocortical (HPA) axis as a stress-mediating mechanism between various forms of childhood adversity and psychopathology. We begin with a review of the neurobiology of the axis and evidence for relations between early adversity–HPA axis activity and HPA axis activity–psychopathology, as well as discuss the role of regulatory mechanisms and sensitive periods in development. Conclusions: We call attention to critical gaps in the literature to highlight next steps in this research including focus on developmental timing, sex differences, stress buffering, and epigenetic regulation. A better understanding of individual differences in the adversity–HPA axis–psychopathology associations will require continued work addressing how multiple biological and behavioral systems work in concert to shape development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-346
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Volume59
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for M.R.G. was provided by a NIH grant (R01 HD075349 01A1) during the preparation of this manuscript. Support for K.J.K. was provided by a NIH training grant (T32 MH018921) and the Center for Health and Wellbeing’s Program for U.S. Health Policy and the Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing at Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University. The authors have no competing or potential conflicts of interest to declare.

Funding Information:
Support for M.R.G. was provided by a NIH grant (R01?HD075349 01A1) during the preparation of this?manuscript. Support for K.J.K. was provided by a NIH training grant (T32 MH018921) and the Center?for Health and Wellbeing's Program for U.S. Health Policy and the Bendheim-Thoman Center for?Research on Child Wellbeing at Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University. The authors have no competing or potential conflicts of interest to declare. This review was invited by the Editors of this journal, who offered a small honorarium to cover expenses. This work has undergone full, external peer review.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

Keywords

  • Early adversity
  • hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenocortical axis
  • psychopathology

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