Annual research review: Resilient functioning in maltreated children - Past, present, and future perspectives

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Background: Through a process of probabilistic epigenesis, child maltreatment progressively contributes to compromised adaptation on a variety of developmental domains central to successful adjustment. These developmental failures pose significant risk for the emergence of psychopathology across the life course. In addition to the psychological consequences of maltreatment, a growing body of research has documented the deleterious effects of abuse and neglect on biological processes. Nonetheless, not all maltreated children develop maladaptively. Indeed, some percentage of maltreated children develops in a resilient fashion despite the significant adversity and stress they experience. Methods: The literature on the determinants of resilience in maltreated children is selectively reviewed and criteria for the inclusion of the studies are delineated. Results: The majority of the research on the contributors to resilient functioning has focused on a single level of analysis and on psychosocial processes. Multilevel investigations have begun to appear, resulting in several studies on the processes to resilient functioning that integrate biological/genetic and psychological domains. Conclusions: Much additional research on the determinants of resilient functioning must be completed before we possess adequate knowledge based on a multiple levels of analysis approach that is commensurate with the complexity inherent in this dynamic developmental process. Suggestions for future research on the development of resilient functioning in maltreated children are proffered and intervention implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)402-422
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • Child maltreatment
  • multiple-levels-of-analysis
  • neural plasticity
  • preventive intervention
  • resilient functioning


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