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The University of Southampton

PSYC3069 Childhood Maltreatment and Mental Health

Module Overview

Childhood maltreatment is one of the leading causes of mental health problems in the world. This module is designed as an in-depth introduction to the mechanisms via which early adversity might lead to mental health problems. We will also discuss resilience factors that might protect maltreated children from adverse effects.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • You should be able to demonstrate knowledge on research methods relevant for designing studies on early adversity
  • You should be able to discuss different mechanisms related to resilience and vulnerability to early adversity
  • You should be able to critically evaluate studies and theories on the association between early adversity and mental health problems
  • You should be able to illustrate independent learning by reading additional relevant literature beyond the lecture material


This is the first time this module is run, we aim to include discussion of: - Overarching themes and issues as an introduction - Measurement and assessment of maltreatment experiences - The concept of resilience - Biological mechanisms which help explain how early experiences impact later development, such as discussion of sensitive periods, biological programming, alterations of brain structure and function, HPA axis imbalance, genetic and epigenetic mechanisms, the role of the microbiome - Other factors relevant for understanding individual differences following early risk; these likely include the discussion of the benefits of adoption and fostering, attachment, family and peer relations

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The two-hour weekly sessions will include both topic lectures as well as contributions from students which may include presentation and discussion of relevant research papers, practical exercises and discussion with practitioners.

Independent Study128
Total study time150


Assessment Strategy

Coursework: The coursework consists of two parts. Both parts will collectively account for 29% of the module mark. Part 1: You will be divided into small groups and be given a selection of papers on a similar topic. As a group, you will choose a stakeholder, extract relevant policy and practice messages and develop a public engagement tool to disseminate those messages to the chosen stakeholder (e.g. a blog post, podcast, brochure, poster, app, video…). You will receive a group mark for part 1 which will account for 30% of the total coursework mark. Part 2: Each group member will write a 1000 word justification which will be marked individually and account for 70% of the coursework mark. You will have to justify how the policy messages could be derived from the studies, how the stakeholders were chosen and how this particular product was a good choice. The last paragraph should describe future directions. Exam: The exam will account for 70% of the total mark. In the exam you will apply the knowledge acquired during the module. We will provide you with the hypotheses, methods and results section of a research paper (this may be a cropped down version or a combination of published studies). You will then have to answer 4 essay questions that will guide you through writing the discussion. The questions will be provided in advance (please note that the correct answer to those questions will depend on the individual paper).


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework  ( hours) 29%
Exam 70%
Research Participation 1%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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