Childhood and adolescent affiliations guide how individuals engage in social relationships throughout their lifetime and adverse experiences can promote biological alterations that facilitate behavioral maladaptation. Indeed, childhood victims of abuse are more likely to be diagnosed with conduct or mood disorders which are both characterized by altered social engagement. A key domain particularly deserving of attention is aggressive behavior, a hallmark of many disorders characterized by deficits in reward processing. Animal models have been integral in identifying both the short- and long-term consequences of stress exposure and suggest that whether it is disruption to parental care or social isolation, chronic exposure to early life stress increases corticosterone, changes the expression of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, and facilitates structural alterations to the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala, influencing how these brain regions communicate with other reward-related substrates. Herein, we describe how adverse early life experiences influence social behavioral outcomes across a wide range of species and highlight the long-term biological mechanisms that are most relevant to maladaptive aggressive behavior.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeuroscience Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Aggression
  • Early life stress
  • Social behavior
  • Stress


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