CAPSTONE Centers for Multidisciplinary Research in Child Abuse and Neglect


Over the past two decades, NIH has funded research on the prevalence, causes, course, and consequences of child abuse and neglect. These efforts have led to a better understanding of the nature, scope, and extent of child maltreatment, as well as the effect of abusive behavior on both the immediate and long-term health of its victims. Results of this research indicate that child and adolescent victims of physical or sexual abuse are likely to have a legacy of physical and mental illness well into their adulthood.

Additionally, survivors of disabling head trauma/traumatic brain injury are typically affected by numerous, long-term cognitive and neurologic conditions, including motor and visual deficits, epilepsy, and speech, language, and behavioral problems.

These research findings confirm a need for more comprehensive multidisciplinary approaches to address this significant public health concern, as well as the need for greater collaboration among researchers, physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, teachers, legal professionals, medical examiners, and other members of the child protection community.

To address these findings and generate new data, NICHD funds the CAPSTONE Centers for Multidisciplinary Research in Child Abuse and Neglect through its Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch. These centers conduct:

  • Innovative and high-quality efficacy and effectiveness trials of child abuse and neglect interventions
  • Prospective studies examining the long-term effect of specific and understudied types of maltreatment, including abusive head trauma, sexual abuse, and medical child abuse and neglect
  • Studies examining the neurobiology of abuse and neglect
  • Studies to develop and test screening tools and assessment measures for early identification and treatment of specific types of abuse and neglect to decrease morbidity and mortality and to identify potential comorbidities

Topic Areas

CAPSTONE centers focus on multidisciplinary projects related to themes such as diagnostic and clinical approaches, long-term impact and outcome studies, and context and culture. Within these themes, centers provide opportunities for community members, students, and faculty at all levels, to be exposed to cutting edge educational tools and technologies, research, and clinical expertise within the field of child maltreatment, which may include:

  • Forensic interviewing
  • Forensic medical evaluations
  • Acute sexual assault examinations
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Cultural competence in working with families and communities
  • Case management and multidisciplinary team coordination
  • Possible legal implications of child abuse findings and testimony
  • Training for team professionals and community stakeholders about child maltreatment and program services
  • Trauma-informed care
  • Ethics and human subject protections
  • Analysis, interpretation, and communication of child fatality and other relevant data
  • Understanding of federal and state laws and policies designed to affect the incidence, reporting, and negative health and economic consequences of child abuse and neglect
  • Methodological advances and techniques for studying biomedical, behavioral, and policy-relevant research in child maltreatment

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