Although rates of child maltreatment are declining, more than 600,000 children in the United States are substantiated victims of abuse or neglect. The focus of this review is on the relationship between maltreatment and mental health problems in childhood and adulthood. Children and adults who are exposed to abuse or neglect in childhood are at risk for a range of poor mental health outcomes, including internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, posttraumatic stress disorder, psychotic symptoms, and personality disorders. I review three potential mechanisms by which maltreatment may increase risk for various forms of psychopathology, () hypervigilance to threat, () deficits in emotion recognition and understanding, and () low responsivity to reward. I also review genetic and psychosocial factors that moderate the relationship between maltreatment and risk for psychopathology. Finally, I discuss methodological limitations of the literature on maltreatment, with an emphasis on the challenges associated with establishing a causal role for maltreatment (and moderators or mediators of maltreatment) in the development of mental health problems and the reliance of many studies on retrospective self-reports.


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