Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2009 Oct;31 Suppl 2:S41-8.

[Childhood maltreatment and adult psychopathology: pathways to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction].

[Article in Portuguese]

Author information

  • 1Instituto PROVE, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.



The aim of this paper was to examine the relationship between childhood maltreatment and adult psychopathology, as reflected in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction.


A selective review of the relevant literature was undertaken in order to identify key and illustrative research findings.


There is now a substantial body of preclinical and clinical evidence derived from a variety of experimental paradigms showing how early-life stress is related to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function and psychological state in adulthood, and how that relationship can be modulated by other factors.


The risk for adult psychopathology and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction is related to a complex interaction among multiple experiential factors, as well as to susceptibility genes that interact with those factors. Although acute hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis responses to stress are generally adaptive, excessive responses can lead to deleterious effects. Early-life stress alters hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function and behavior, but the pattern of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysfunction and psychological outcome in adulthood reflect both the characteristics of the stressor and other modifying factors.


Research to date has identified multiple determinants of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction seen in adults with a history of childhood maltreatment or other early-life stress. Further work is needed to establish whether hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis abnormalities in this context can be used to develop risk endophenotypes for psychiatric and physical illnesses.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Scientific Electronic Library Online Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk