Childhood socioeconomic status and childhood maltreatment: Distinct associations with brain structure

Gwendolyn M. Lawson, Joshua S. Camins, Laura Wisse, Jue Wu, Jeffrey T. Duda, Philip A. Cook, James C. Gee, Martha J. Farah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study examined the relationship between childhood socioeconomic status (SES), childhood maltreatment, and the volumes of the hippocampus and amygdala between the ages of 25 and 36 years. Previous work has linked both low SES and maltreatment with reduced hippocampal volume in childhood, an effect attributed to childhood stress. In 46 adult subjects, only childhood maltreatment, and not childhood SES, predicted hippocampal volume in regression analyses, with greater maltreatment associated with lower volume. Neither factor was related to amygdala volume. When current SES and recent interpersonal stressful events were also considered, recent interpersonal stressful events predicted smaller hippocampal volumes over and above childhood maltreatment. Finally, exploratory analyses revealed a significant sex by childhood SES interaction, with women's childhood SES showing a significantly more positive relation (less negative) with hippocampus volume than men's. The overall effect of childhood maltreatment but not SES, and the sex-specific effect of childhood SES, indicate that different forms of stressful childhood adversity affect brain development differently.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0175690
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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