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REJECT: Social rejection in early childhood and its effects on stress responses in later life

Early life adversity (ELA; e.g. parental divorce, separation from primary caregivers) has been shown to be positively related to dissociative symptoms, which has given rise to the notion that freezing (as a dissociative process) may help to numb emotional and physical pain and, therefore, to enable both survival and escape from these overwhelming situations. Traumatic stress during childhood can enhance the risk for children to develop insecure attachment styles, which are related to physical and psychological health problems. The separation of or from one’s main caregivers is a major life event that can easily result in emotional (sometimes traumatic) stress as well as extreme insecurity to the child concerned and, therefore, mental and physical ill-health.

Recent research suggests that children of divorced parents and adoptees more often experience psychological and physical symptoms than children of non-divorced parents. The processes that mediate the relationship between early life adversity (here: parental divorce or separation from the primary caregivers) and ill-health, however, are still elusive. In this project, we will investigate whether ELA moderates the relationship between stress and psychophysiological reactions. We will further focus on mediators that might explain this relationship. The expected results will therefore help to identify high-risk individuals and help to further improve prevention and treatment approaches.

This project is funded by the Fonds National de la Recherche (AFR) (2015-2017).

Involved members of staff