Transmission of the adverse consequences of childhood maltreatment across generations: Focus on gestational biology

Nora K. Moog, Christine M. Heim, Sonja Entringer, Hyagriv N. Simhan, Pathik D. Wadhwa, Claudia Buss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Childhood maltreatment (CM) has well-established consequences for the mental and physical health of the exposed individual. Accumulating evidence now suggests that the detrimental sequelae of CM may be transmitted from one generation to the next, thereby extending the long-term ramifications of early adverse experiences and constituting intergenerational continuity in poor health outcomes. In this review, the current state of knowledge on the intergenerational effects of maternal exposure to CM is summarized and transmission pathways are discussed, specifically direct as well as indirect pathways involving variation in gestational biology. The review begins with a definition of CM and an overview of the clinical and neurobiological consequences of CM in the exposed and the offspring generation. The intrauterine period and variation in gestational biology are identified as a potential time window and a mechanism of transmission, respectively. Furthermore, a summary of the available evidence supporting both direct and indirect effects of gestational biological variation on offspring development is included. Finally, knowledge gaps and challenges in the investigation of the role of gestational biological mechanisms in the intergenerational transmission of CM sequelae are addressed and considerations for future study designs along with experiences from our current studies are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number173372
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
StatePublished - Apr 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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