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Psychological and Neurobiological Consequences of Child Abuse


Entry requirements

Registration is only allowed after the completion of the 60 EC of first year Psychology courses. For students from other studies; registration to the minor Kindermishandeling en verwaarlozing: een levensloopperspectief is required.


Childhood maltreatment (both abuse and neglect) can have a pervasive impact on various domains of functioning, such as the cognitive, emotional and social domains. It can also have an impact on a person’s physical health. This course focuses on the long-term consequences of the different forms of childhood maltreatment, including sexual abuse and emotional and physical abuse and neglect. The course examines key neurobiological models that aim to explain the processes underlying these long-lasting changes, including programming of stress-systems (i.e. HPA-axis, immune functioning), brain functioning and epigenetics. Some background knowledge or interest in biology is therefore warranted. It also covers cognitive and genetic models on risk and resilience that aim to explain individual differences with regard to the impact of childhood maltreatment. It will furthermore discuss theoretical models and the effectiveness of different forms of psychotherapy that address the cognitive and emotional consequences of childhood maltreatment. Different research methods are discussed (e.g. animal, experimental and observational studies) including their (dis)advantages in studying the long-term impact of childhood abuse and neglect. Lastly, students are trained in reading contemporary scientific literature, as scientific and review papers form the basis of the study material. Students should be aware that the coursework involves a substantial reading load that is supplementary to the lectures.

Course objectives

After completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Illustrate and explain the consequences of the different forms of childhood maltreatment within the domains of cognition, emotion, social behaviour and physical health;

  • Describe the psychological and neurobiological models that aim to explain the long-term consequences of childhood maltreatment and individual differences in risk and resilience;

  • Describe different research methods and their potential use in studying the consequences of childhood maltreatment; and

  • Summarize and discuss different forms of psychotherapy that address the consequences of childhood maltreatment.

  • Read scientific papers to keep track of the research on the impact of childhood maltreatment.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.



Students must register themselves for all course components (lectures, tutorials and practicals) they wish to follow. You can register up to 5 days prior to the start of the course. The exception here is that first-year bachelor students are assigned and registered for all components in the first semester or academic year by the administration of their bachelor programme. The programme will communicate to these students for which course components and for which period the registration applies.


You must register for each exam in My Studymap at least 10 days before the exam date. Don’t forget! For more information, see the enrolment procedure.
You cannot take an exam without a valid registration in My Studymap.

Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

Students who take this course as part of a LDE minor or a premaster programme, exchange students and external guest students will be informed by the education administration about the current registration procedure.

Mode of instruction

Eight 2-hour (guest) lectures. The lecturers outline the main concepts of the course and illustrate them using examples from clinical practice and their own research. The scientific papers form the basis of the study material but the material from the lectures is also part of the exam literature, so attendance is highly recommended.

Assessment method

The exam format will be a multiple choice exam, with additional open questions. Information about the final format will follow on Brightspace. The exam will be in English, but any open questions can be answered in Dutch as well. The possibility to review your exam will be announced on Brightspace.

The Institute of Psychology uses fixed rules for grade calculation and compulsory attendance. It also follows the policy of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences to systematically check student papers for plagiarism with the help of software. All students are required to take and pass the Scientific Integrity Test with a score of 100% in order to learn about the practice of integrity in scientific writing. Students are given access to the quiz via a module on Brightspace. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of these three policies.

Reading list

  • 25-30 Scientific and review papers (to be announced on Brightspace)

  • Lectures (the slides will be posted on Brightspace)

  • Book: Perry, B. & Szalavitz & Perry. (2017). The boy who was raised as a dog. Basic Books (paperback). p 275, ISBN 978-0-465-094455. (Note that older, e-book, or Dutch versions of this book are also allowed)

Contact information

Dr. Marieke Tollenaar