Serotonin Could Have Role to Play in Cycle of Abuse
> 11/8/2006 11:04:14 AM

Reuters reported last week that researchers working with monkeys have gained new insight into what may be responsible for the cycle of abuse created when those who were abused as children in turn abuse their own children. The team from University of Chicago observed rhesus monkeys from birth through to adulthood. Of the female monkeys who had been abused by their own mothers, the monkeys who became abusive mothers themselves had notably lower levels of serotonin than females who had been abused but had not become abusers.

The study, which appears in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, has created a new wrinkle in the discussion of why those who suffer child hood abuse become abusers themselves. This new information has led researchers to believe that childhood abuse can lead to long-term changes in the brain that could result in depression, anxiety disorders or problems with aggression, all of which have been linked to serotonin. These issues, coupled with their own experiences of abuse, could potentially lead to abusive situations later in life when dealing with their own families.

Although Reuters quoted lead researcher Dario Maestripieri as saying, "I think we've made another step forward in understanding exactly how early experience affects this inter-generational transmission of abuse," the data collected here will have to be used to help create research that focuses on human interactions. These, for obvious reasons, may remain ethically difficult to design, even in a more sociological realm, especially when a great deal of child abuse goes completely unreported and unnoticed outside of the home. Nevertheless, Maestripieri's study will hopefully allow for an increased creativity in approaching the question of abuse in human families. It may help lead to an increased understanding that opens doors to new research and new strategies to help keep children safe and create healthier, happy family connections.

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