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Childhood Adversity: The Impact of Childhood Maltreatment on Mental Health

Explore the connection between childhood adversity and mental health, and enhance your knowledge of mental health in young people.

29,449 enrolled on this course

Image showing a child's hands, covered in paint

Childhood Adversity: The Impact of Childhood Maltreatment on Mental Health

29,449 enrolled on this course

  • 3 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

Learn how childhood trauma impacts a child’s beliefs, behaviour, and development

We know half of all mental health conditions emerge before age fourteen, but there’s a need for a greater understanding of young people’s mental wellbeing.

On this course, you’ll improve your understanding of how early adverse experiences can impact a young person’s mental health.

You’ll learn from world leaders in child development and hear from educators in disciplines like neuroscience and educational psychology.

Using evidence-based research, you’ll examine the different ways childhood trauma can influence an individual’s psychological state, educational outcomes and social difficulties.

Skip to 0 minutes and 0 seconds [Music] Childhood is an important time in an individual’s life shaping who we become as adults. Research has indicated that a third of children experience acts committed against them by either a parent or caregiver that results in potential harm. Childhood maltreatment is when a person causes physical or emotional harm to a child, such as not responding to their physical or emotional needs. It can significantly impact the child’s mental and physical well-being. Understanding the consequences of childhood maltreatment and discovering ways to support young people is important because negative experiences can significantly impact a young person’s ability to succeed in life.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds Over the past few years scientists have done a great deal of research looking at the consequences of childhood maltreatment and they are now investigating how these types of negative experiences might influence the well-being and brain development of a young person. For example research has shown that maltreatment can lead to changes in both brain structure and brain function, but is it possible that these changes reflect a beneficial adaptation which many of us might show if we were in an environment that posed a threat. Now parents, caregivers and teachers may ask what does this mean for my child or student what can we do to support young people who have experienced such adversity?

Skip to 1 minute and 44 seconds From clinical research and educational perspectives we’re taking a closer look to explore the impact of early adversity on a person’s well-being. If we can clarify the latest research findings this will help us understand how we might best support vulnerable young people [Music]


  • Week 1

    Childhood adversity through the eyes of: A Clinician

    • Welcome

      In this activity, we welcome you to this course and provide an outlook on the topics to come.

    • Meet a Clinician

      In this activity, Dr. Sheila Redfern introduces herself and the clinical perspective on early adversity.

    • Building relationships

      In this activity, we will take a closer look at the work that clinicians do with young people who experienced adversity and how such adversity can affect a young person's everyday life.

    • Ways to support young people who experienced trauma and their carers

      In this activity, we learn about the importance of remembering one's past in order to shape the one's future and how clinicians and caregivers can help a young person build a narrative one their life.

  • Week 2

    Childhood adversity through the eyes of: A Neuroscientist

    • Meet a Neuroscientist

      This week, you will meet Professor McCrory who is a known expert in the field of childhood adversity. His research uses a combination of neuroscience and behavioural measures to understand the impact of adversity on the child.

    • How does maltreatment affect the developing brain?

      In this activity, we will look at the evidence that has been collected by researchers that suggests childhood maltreatment can change the developing brain.

    • Understanding early adversity effects short and long term

      In this activity, we will try to understand the effects of early adversity in the short and ling term and illuminate a theory that states such changes are adaptive in the short term but might not serve anymore later on.

  • Week 3

    Childhood adversity through the eyes of: An Educator

    • Introduction to the Educational Perspective

      In this activity we will meet Brenda McHugh who is an expert in teaching young people with adverse experiences.

    • Educating young people who experienced adversity

      This activity illuminates some of the key issues around educating young people who experienced adversity.

    • Research meets education

      In this activity, we investigate the value of combining all three strands and perspectives you learned about in the last weeks to support young people who have experienced maltreatment.

    • Overall Course Summary

      This is a short course summary, reviewing the key learnings of the past weeks.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Reflect on how childhood maltreatment may impact on a child’s beliefs and behaviour towards others.
  • Investigate how childhood maltreatment may change neurobiology and behaviour as a way to adapt to a hostile and unpredictable environment.
  • Evaluate how childhood maltreatment may negatively impact on learning success and social development in school and how alternative provision can support young people.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone who has an interest in learning about the impact of childhood abuse and neglect on mental wellbeing, as well as child development and psychopathology.

The course will be of particular use to those who work with or care for children who have experienced maltreatment, such as parents and carers, teachers, and social workers.

You do not need to be a professional or have formal education in child development or psychology.

Although the course is suitable for any background or career stage, students and professionals in any healthcare profession will benefit from the insights shared by the course experts.

Who will you learn with?

Dr. Vanessa Puetz, Associate Professor in Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology at UCL and is the Programme Director of the Pg Dip Child and Adolescent Psychology and Neuroscience in Practice

Who developed the course?

UCL (University College London)

UCL was founded in 1826. It was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, and the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$79/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 12 Aug 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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