Leaders: Michel Boivin, Michael Meaney, Jean-Philippe Gouin
Negative life experience during early development including sexual and physical abuse as well as profound emotional neglect, are among the strongest predictors of psychiatric pathology, particularly depression, substance disorders and suicide. Such factors also influence clinical course, including early onset of illness, poor treatment response, increased comorbidity and chronic health care utilization. It is generally assumed that childhood adversity influences psychological development and induces patterns of behavioral responses, which in turn, associate with pervasive interpersonal difficulties and an enhanced reactivity to stress. These traits, in turn, increase the risk for depressive psychopathology, substance use and suicide. There is substantial theoretical and empirical research supporting the validity and strength of the association between childhood adversity and psychiatric illness. However, we are only now starting to understand how molecular mechanisms may account for such strong and long-lasting effects. How does adversity in early-life influence the risk for psychopathology over the lifespan?