Neurobiological and neurocognitive measures

In addition to psychological variables, neurobiological and immunological indicators will be assessed to explore potential associations between psychological and neurobiological or neurocognitive parameters in children with and without maltreatment experiences. This data category is assessed at baseline within the GROW-part. Additionally, some measures are re-assessed once or twice within the TREAT-part (post-intervention and/or follow-up). 

Sleep: Questionnaire and actigraphy data
Parents will be asked to answer the Children's Sleep Habits Questionnaire (CSHQ; German validation by Schlarb, Schwerdtle, & Hautzinger, 2010). The CSHQ yields a total score and eight subscale scores reflecting key sleep domains such as sleep duration, anxiety around sleep, behavior occurring during sleep and night wakings. In addition, actigraphy data of the child will be collected on three consecutive nights.

Neurocognition: Emotional Go/Nogo Task
We will use a slightly modified version of the Emotional Go/Nogo paradigm as previously described by Tottenham et al. (2011). The task will be applied to all children aged 6 years and older in order to assess the associations between emotion discrimination, emotional regulation, cognitive control, neurobiological and psychopathological parameters as well as to evaluate the effects of the intervention. In addition, the same task will be applied at baseline to all parents.

Neurobiology: HPA axis function parameters
Children's as well as parent's hair cortisol levels will be assessed as a measure of chronic stress during the last 3 months (Stalder & Kirschbaum, 2012).

Immunology: Immune system functioning parameters
In order to define immunological parameters, which might be related to stress responses of foster children, different parameters related to the innate as well as the adaptive immune response will be analyzed. Secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) in the child's saliva will be examined as a potential marker of chronic, long-term stress (Tanaka & Naruishi, 2013). In addition, a subsample of 20 children per group who are willing to donate a blood sample will be collected at the University Hospital RWTH Aachen so that immune parameters (CRP, T-,B- and NK-Cells) and changes in transcription of genes can be examined. The child's number of infections will be assessed via interviews with the parent.


Schlarb, A. A., Schwerdtle, B., & Hautzinger, M. (2010). Validation and psychometric properties of the German version of the Children`s Sleep Habits Questionnaire (CSHQ-DE). Somnologie, 14, 260-266.

Tottenham, N., Hare, T. A., & Casey, B. J. (2011). Behavioral assessment of emotion discrimination, emotion regulation, and cognitive control in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, Epub 2011 March 16.

Stalder, T., & Kirschbaum, C. (2012). Analysis of cortisol in hair - State of the art and future directions. Brain Behav Immun, 26, 1019-29.

Tanaka, Y., & Naruishi, N. (2013). Development of an on-site measurement system for salivary stress-related substances based on microchip CE. Methods in Molecular Biology, 919, 57-66.

For a description of the neurobiological measures please visit the following page.