Serum dopamine beta hydroxylase and maltreatment in psychiatrically hospitalized boys

Matthew Galvin, Robert Ten Eyck, Anantha Shekhar, Barbara Stilwell, Naomi Fineberg, Gina Laite, George Karwisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Scopus citations


Fifty boys, hospitalized on a school-age and an adolescent unit in an intermediate length psychiatric hospital, were studied while off psychoactive medication to determine how serum dopamine beta hydroxylase (DBH) activity varies with different childhood maltreatment experiences. Childhood maltreatment was categorized according to onset (before 36 months old, between 36-72 months old and over 72 months old). Childhood maltreatment groups were compared with a group of psychiatrically hospitalized boys who had neither been abused nor neglected. Boys who were younger than 72 months at age of onset of maltreatment had significantly lower DBH activity than those who had experienced maltreatment later in childhood and those who had not been subjected to abuse or neglect. This difference appeared attributable to the DBH activity of school age (but not adolescent) boys who had been abused/neglected before 72 months. Boys with a principal diagnosis of conduct disorder solitary aggressive type had lower DBH activity than boys without this diagnosis regardless of whether or not they had been maltreated. Low serum DBH may be a biological sequela of maltreatment early in life that correlates with the development of conduct disorder solitary aggressive type in boys.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)821-832
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1995


  • Conduct disorder
  • Dopamine beta hydroxylase
  • Maltreatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Law
  • Sociology and Political Science

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