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Psychological and Neurobiological Consequences of Child Abuse


Entry requirements

Only after completing the first-year examination in Psychology. Check Psychology for an overview of all the first year courses. For students from other studies; registration to the minor ‘Kindermishandeling en Verwaarlozing: een levensloopperspectief’.


Childhood 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 abuse. It will furthermore discuss theoretical models and the effectiveness of different forms of psychotherapy that address the cognitive and emotional consequences of childhood abuse. 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 abuse within the domains of cognition, emotion, social behaviour and physical health;

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

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


For the timetables of your lectures, workgroups, and exams, select your study programme.
Psychology timetables

Lectures Exams



Students need to register for lectures, workgroups and exams.
Instructions for registration in courses for the 2nd and 3rd year


Elective students have to enroll for each course separately. For admission requirements contact your study advisor.

Exchange/Study abroad

For admission requirements, please contact your exchange coordinator.


Students are not automatically enrolled for an examination. They can register via uSis from 100 to 10 calendar days before the date; students who are not registered will not be permitted to take the examination.
[Registering for exams](Registering for exams](

Mode of instruction

8 2-hour lectures and guest lecturers. They outline the main concepts and theories and illustrate them using examples from clinical practice. 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

Multiple choice examination (70%) and open questions (30%).

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. 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 Blackboard)

  • Lectures (sheets and web lectures)

  • Book: Perry, B. & Szalavitz & Perry. (2007). The boy who was raised as a dog. Basic Books (paperback). p 275, ISBN 978-0-476-05653. (newer, e-book or Dutch versions are also allowed)

Contact information

Dr. Marieke Tollenaar