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The Effects of Maltreatment and Neuroendocrine Regulation on Memory Performance


  • This research was supported by funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA17741) and the Spunk Fund Inc.

concerning this article should be addressed to Dante Cicchetti, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, 51 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455. Electronic mail may be sent to


This investigation examined basic memory processes, cortisol, and dissociation in maltreated children. School-aged children (age range = 6–13), 143 maltreated and 174 nonmaltreated, were administered the California Verbal Learning Test–Children (D. C. Delis, J. H. Kramer, E. Kaplan, & B. A. Ober, 1994) in a week-long camp setting, daily morning cortisol levels were assessed throughout the duration of camp, and behavioral symptoms were evaluated. Maltreatment and cortisol regulation were not related to short- or long-delay recall or recognition memory. However, children experiencing neglect and/or emotional maltreatment and low cortisol evinced heightened false recognition memory. Dissociative symptoms were higher in maltreated children; however, high dissociation was related to recognition inaccuracy only among nonmaltreated children. Results highlight the interplay between maltreatment and hypocortisolism in children’s recognition memory errors.