Results of a study in rhesus macaques suggest that neurobiological changes resulting from infant abuse may play a role in later negative behaviors, including perpetuating child abuse.
"Previous studies have reported hyperactivation of catecholaminergic systems and elevated concentrations of corticotropin-releasing-hormone (CRH) in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of child maltreatment victims or combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study investigated the CSF concentrations of CRH and monoamine metabolites in rhesus macaque mothers that physically abused their infants and had themselves been abused as infants," reported Dario Maestripieri, at the University of Chicago, and colleagues at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, and at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Ten abusive mothers and 10 controls "were sampled for CSF during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Focal observations of social and maternal behavior were also made."
The researchers found that "abusive mothers had significantly higher CSF concentrations of CRH and 5-HIAA than controls. Across both subjects and controls, higher CRH, 5-HIAA, and MHPG concentrations were associated with antisocial behavior patterns including a high frequency of maternal aggression, infant rejection, and a low frequency of contacts received from other individuals."
They wrote, "These findings are consistent with those of previous primate and human studies and suggest that the neurobiological alterations associated with infant abuse may play an important role in the occurrence of maladaptive behavior in adulthood, including the perpetuation of infant abuse across generations."