Childhood trauma confers higher risk of adulthood physical and mental illness; however, the biological mechanism mediating this association remains largely unknown. Recent research has suggested dysregulation of the immune system as a possible biological mediator. The present paper conducted a meta-analysis to establish whether early-life adversity contributes to potentially pathogenic pro-inflammatory phenotypes in adult individuals. A systematic search of Pubmed, PsycINFO, EMBASE, Scopus and Medline identified 25 articles for the meta-analysis, including 18 studies encompassing a sample of 16 870 individuals for C-reactive protein (CRP), 15 studies including 3751 individuals for interleukin-6 (IL-6) and 10 studies including 881 individuals for tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). Random-effects meta-analysis showed that individuals exposed to childhood trauma had significantly elevated baseline peripheral levels of CRP (Fisher's z = 0.10, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.05–0.14), IL-6 (z = 0.08, 95% CI = 0.03–0.14) and TNF-α (z = 0.23, 95% CI = 0.14–0.32). Subgroup analyses for specific types of trauma (sexual, physical or emotional abuse) revealed that these impact differentially the single inflammatory markers. Moreover, meta-regression revealed greater effect sizes in clinical samples for the association between childhood trauma and CRP but not for IL-6 or TNF-α. Age, body mass index (BMI) and gender had no moderating effects. The analysis demonstrates that childhood trauma contributes to a proin flammatory state in adulthood, with specific inflammatory profiles depending on the specific type of trauma.