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As championed by the work of Ed Zigler, investing in nurturing environments for all children is a chief tenet of primary prevention that will have far-reaching benefits to the health and welfare of all members of society. Children who endure child maltreatment (CM) are among society's most vulnerable. Prospective longitudinal research aimed at a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms linking CM to subsequent adverse health consequences is needed to improve outcomes and to strengthen causal inference. This paper outlines the methods of the Child Health Study (CHS), a large, state-wide longitudinal cohort of recently maltreated and nonmaltreated youth aged 8–13 who will be assessed every 2 years. The CHS is designed to include in-depth assessments of multiple environmental, behavioral, neural, physiological, and molecular mechanisms through which CM may impact a broad spectrum of youth development, including behavioral and physical health outcomes. In addition to describing the conceptual framework and methods underlying the CHS, we provide information on valuable “lessons learned” in the hopes of supporting future research efforts facing similar challenges. The ultimate goal of this research is demonstrating how policies regarding CM impact the well-being, resilience and recovery of survivors and that they are worthy of large public investment.
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