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Analysis of the occurrence of early life stress in adult psychiatric patients: A systematic review

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Camila Maria Severi Martins, Sandra Marcia de Carvalho Tofoli, Cristiane von Werne Baes, Mario Juruena

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-227
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology and Neuroscience
Issue number2
Accepted/In press10 May 2011


King's Authors


The purpose of the paper was to conduct a systematic review of early life stress and its association with psychiatric disorders in adulthood. The occurrence of early stress has lasting negative consequences on the individual, with psychopathology onset one of the most important consequences. The degree of early life stress is associated with the severity of psychiatric disorders and disability in adulthood. Methodology: We conducted a search of two databases (PubMed and SciELO), limited to the time span 1990-2010, using the following keywords: child abuse, maltreatment, early stress, and psychiatric disorders. Thirty-one papers were selected for this review. Results: We found that the subtypes of early life stress such as emotional and physical neglect and sexual, emotional, and physical abuse have associations with several psychiatric disorders, but the Borderline Personality Disorder and Mood Disorders are more associated with the categories listed. Conclusions: Exposure to adversities in childhood and adolescence is predictive of psychiatric disorders in adulthood. More studies are needed to understand the mechanisms by which early life stress is a risk factor for future psychopathology.

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