Early abuse linked to more depression in kids

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Washington, Feb 6 (ANI): Early abuse is associated with more depression in children, a new study has found.

According to a new study of low-income children, although children can be depressed for many reasons, new evidence suggests that there are physiological differences among depressed children based on their experiences of abuse before age 5.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Rochester, Mt. Hope Family Center, has been published in the January/February 2010 issue of the journal Child Development.

Children who experience maltreatment, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse or neglect, grow up with a lot of stress. Cortisol, termed the "stress hormone," helps the body regulate stress. But when stress is chronic and overloads the system, cortisol can soar to very high levels or plummet to lows, which in turn can harm development and health.

The researchers studied more than 500 low-income children ages 7 to 13, about half of whom had been abused and/or neglected, to find out whether abuse early in life and feelings of depression affected their levels of cortisol. High levels of depression were more frequent among children who were abused in the first five years of their lives than among maltreated children who weren't abused early in life or children who weren't maltreated at all.

Dante Cicchetti, McKnight Presidential Chair and professor of child development and psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, who led the study, said: "The results of this study have significant implications for children in the child welfare population and underscore the importance of providing early preventive interventions to children who have been abused." (ANI)

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