Maltreatment and Emotional Development

  • Madeline B. Harms
  • Brian T. Leitzke
  • Seth D. Pollak


The family environment has strong impacts on children’s emotional development. Although children can adapt to a high degree of variation in the type of input they receive, child maltreatment is a species-atypical experience that disrupts the biological systems that underlie children’s social and emotional development. In this chapter we describe the consequences of maltreatment on children’s emotional development, focusing on alterations in (1) emotion perception, recognition, and attention, (2) emotion expression, (3) regulation of negative emotions and stress, and (4) reward processing. We consider several target mechanisms through which child maltreatment impacts these aspects of emotion processing, including behavioral, physiological, cognitive, and neurobiological pathways. We also discuss clinical implications of this body of research, including the potential for designing effective interventions aimed at targeting specific emotional biases associated with the experience of maltreatment.


Maltreatment Emotion regulation Stress Reward processing Emotion perception Brain development 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Madeline B. Harms
    • 1
  • Brian T. Leitzke
    • 1
  • Seth D. Pollak
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin—MadisonMadisonUSA

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