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Psychological and Neurobiological Consequences of Child Abuse


Entry requirements

Registration is only allowed after the completion of the 60 EC of first year Psychology courses. For students from other studies; registration to the minor Kindermishandeling en Verwaarlozing: een levensloopperspectief is required.


Childhood abuse and neglect can have a pervasive impact on various domains of functioning, such as the cognitive, emotional and social domains. It can also have an impact on a person’s physical health. This course focuses on the long-term consequences of the different forms of childhood maltreatment, including sexual abuse and emotional and physical abuse and neglect. The course examines key neurobiological models that aim to explain the processes underlying these long-lasting changes, including programming of stress-systems (i.e. HPA-axis, immune functioning), brain functioning and epigenetics. Some background knowledge or interest in biology is therefore warranted. It also covers cognitive and genetic models on risk and resilience that aim to explain individual differences with regard to the impact of childhood abuse. It will furthermore discuss theoretical models and the effectiveness of different forms of psychotherapy that address the cognitive and emotional consequences of childhood abuse. Different research methods are discussed (e.g. animal, experimental and observational studies) including their (dis)advantages in studying the long-term impact of childhood abuse and neglect. Lastly, students are trained in reading contemporary scientific literature, as scientific and review papers form the basis of the study material. Students should be aware that the coursework involves a substantial reading load that is supplementary to the lectures.

Course objectives

After completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Illustrate and explain the consequences of the different forms of childhood abuse within the domains of cognition, emotion, social behaviour and physical health;

  • Describe the psychological and neurobiological models that aim to explain the long-term consequences of childhood abuse and individual differences in risk and resilience;

  • Describe different research methods and their potential use in studying the consequences of childhood maltreatment; and

  • Summarize and discuss different forms of psychotherapy that address the consequences of childhood abuse.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.


NOTE As of the academic year 2021-2022, you must register for all courses in uSis. You do this twice a year: once for the courses you want to take in semester 1 and once for the courses you want to take in semester 2.
Registration for courses in the first semester is possible from July. Registration for courses in the first semester is possible from December.
The exact date on which the registration starts will be published on the website of the Student Service Center (SSC). First year Bachelor students as well as premaster students will be registered by the Student Service Center; they do not need to register themselves.

The registration period for all courses closes five calendar days before the start of the course.
Also read the complete registration procedure


Elective students have to enroll for each course separately. For admission requirements contact your study advisor.

Mode of instruction

8 2-hour (guest) lecturers. The lectures outline the main concepts and illustrate them using examples from clinical practice. The scientific papers form the basis of the study material but the material from the lectures is also part of the exam literature, so attendance is highly recommended.

Assessment method

The exam format will be a multiple choice exam, possibly with additional open questions. Information about the final format will follow on Brightspace. The exam will be in English, but any open questions can be answered in Dutch as well.

The Institute of Psychology uses fixed rules for grade calculation and compulsory attendance. It also follows the policy of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences to systematically check student papers for plagiarism with the help of software. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of these three policies.

Reading list

  • 25-30 Scientific and review papers (to be announced on Brightspace)

  • Lectures (sheets)

  • Book: Perry, B. & Szalavitz & Perry. (2017). The boy who was raised as a dog. Basic Books (paperback). p 275, ISBN 978-0-465-094455. (older, e-book or Dutch versions are also allowed)

Contact information

Dr. Marieke Tollenaar