Child maltreatment influences negatively the social, emotional and cognitive development of children. In addition to the well-known psychopathological sequelae, in recent years research has started to investigate the negative impact of maltreatment on neural structures and neuropsychological abilities too, that can lead to limited performance at school or work. Recent preliminary evidence suggests that the stress response system may play a pivotal role. Maltreatment may activate an abnormal response to stress, that interferes with the development of more vulnerable brain areas, such as the limbic system, the prefrontal cortex, and the white matter. These changes have a significant impact on various cognitive domains. In addition to the relational dimension, recent evidence thus suggests that it is important to take into account seriously also the neuropsychological and neurobiological dimensions, to perform an accurate diagnostic process and to implement effective therapeutic interventions.
Keywords: Child, child maltreatment, brain, neuroimaging, neuropsychology