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Relational interventions for child maltreatment: Past, present, and future perspectives

  • Sheree L. Toth (a1), Julie A. Gravener-Davis (a1), Danielle J. Guild (a1) and Dante Cicchetti (a1) (a2)

It is well established that child maltreatment has significant deleterious effects for the individual as well as for society. We briefly review research regarding the impact of child maltreatment on the attachment relationship, highlighting the need for relational interventions for maltreated children and their families to effectively thwart negative developmental cascades that are so often observed in the context of child maltreatment. Next, historical and contemporaneous perspectives on relational interventions for individuals with histories of child maltreatment are discussed, with attention to the empirical evidence for and the current evidence-based status of several relationally based interventions for child maltreatment. Differential sensitivity to the environment is then discussed as a theoretical framework with important implications for interventions for individuals who have been reared in maltreating environments. Current research on neurobiology and maltreatment is then reviewed, with an emphasis on the need for future investigations on genetic variants, epigenetics, and the efficacy of relational interventions for maltreated children. We conclude with a discussion of the tenets of developmental psychopathology, their implications for relational interventions for child maltreatment, and recommendations for advancing the development, provision, and evaluation of relational interventions for individuals with histories of child maltreatment.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Sheree L. Toth, Mt. Hope Family Center, University of Rochester, 187 Edinburgh Street, Rochester, NY 14608; E-mail:
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Development and Psychopathology
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