Development and psychopathology

Child maltreatment, inflammation, and internalizing symptoms: Investigating the roles of C-reactive protein, gene variation, and neuroendocrine regulation.

PMID 25997771


Prior research has found inconsistent evidence regarding the association among childhood adversity, inflammation, and internalizing symptoms, perhaps because previous studies have yet to adequately integrate important factors such as the timing of the adversity, genetic variation, and other relevant processes such as neuroendocrine regulation. The aims of the present study were threefold: (a) to determine whether the effect of the timing of child maltreatment on C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker, varies by CRP gene variation; (b) to explore whether links between salivary CRP and childhood internalizing symptoms depend on the presence and timing of maltreatment experiences; and (c) to investigate the role of CRP in the relations between child neuroendocrine regulation and internalizing symptoms and examine whether these associations are moderated by the presence and timing of child maltreatment. Participants included a sample of 267 maltreated and 222 nonmaltreated children (M age = 9.72, SD = 0.99; 52.4% male; 66% African American) who attended a summer day camp research program designed for school-aged low-income children. Department of Human Services records were examined to determine the onset and recency of maltreatment for children in the maltreated group. The results indicated that among children with recent onset maltreatment, those with at least one A allele from CRP single nucleotide polymorphism rs1417938 evidenced significantly higher CRP levels compared to recently maltreated children carrying the TT genotype. Moreover, higher levels of CRP were associated with higher levels of internalizing symptoms only for recently maltreated children. Finally, we did not find support for salivary CRP as a mechanism in the relation between neuroendocrine regulation and childhood internalizing symptoms. Our findings highlight the importance of the timing of child maltreatment and have important implications for characterizing variability in inflammation and internalizing symptoms among youth.