Through a translational approach, dynamic skill theory enhances the understanding of the variation in the behavioral and cognitive presentations of a high-risk population - maltreated children. Two studies illustrate the application of normative developmental constructs from a dynamic skills perspective to samples of young maltreated and nonmaltreated children. Each study examines the emotional and cognitive development of maltreated children with attention to their developing world view or negativity bias and cognitive skills. Across both studies, maltreated children demonstrate negativity bias when compared to their nonmaltreated counterparts. Cognitive complexity demonstrated by the maltreated children is dependent upon a positive or negative context. Positive problem solving is more difficult for maltreated children when compared to their nonmaltreated counterparts. Differences by maltreatment type, severity, timing of the abuse, and identity of the perpetrator are also delineated, and variation in the resulting developmental trajectories in each case is explored. This translation of dynamic skill theory, as applied to maltreated children, enhances our basic understanding of their functioning, clarifies the nature of their developmental differences, and underscores the need for early intervention.