This line of research focuses on the impact of the social environment in the aftermath of Childhood Emotional Maltreatment (CEM). CEM consists of any act of omissive (emotional neglect), or commissive (emotional abuse) behavior that is potentially harmful to a child’s emotional and psychological development. CEM is the most prevalent type of abuse, and is strongly associated with adult psychopathology. CEM increases risk for subsequent psychopathology through altering neurobiology (brain structure and brain functioning). In order to reduce CEM related psychopathology rates, it is crucial that factors that increase resilience to prior CEM effects in affected individuals are better understood.
During adolescence, when the brain goes through major developmental changes, adolescents are very receptive to their social environment (i.e. peers). In animals, the effects of early life stress on neurobiology can be reduced by positive environmental changes during adolescence. The intriguing question is whether adolescent friendships similarly reduce the neurobiological impact of CEM (thereby increasing individual’s resilience), this is the aim of my more recent studies.