Early parenting is associated with the developing brains of children born very preterm

Karli Treyvaud, Deanne K. Thompson, Claire E. Kelly, Wai Yen Loh, Terrie E. Inder, Jeanie L.Y. Cheong, Lex W. Doyle, Peter J. Anderson

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Objective: Examine relationships between parenting and brain structure and growth in children born very preterm (VPT). Methods: Participants were 118 children born VPT (<30weeks’ gestation or <1,250 g birth weight) and their parents. Parenting behavior was observed at 2 years’ corrected age. Brain magnetic resonance imaging scans were performed at term equivalent age and 7 years’ corrected age with brain volumes and white matter microstructure analyzed. Results: More sensitive parenting at 2 years was associated with larger basal ganglia volumes at 7 years for boys, greater growth in basal ganglia volume from term to 7 years, and greater growth in amygdala volume growth for boys. More intrusive parenting was associated with smaller intracranial and grey matter volumes at 7 years, as well as lower fractional anisotropy and higher radial diffusivity in the cerebellar white matter, cerebral peduncle, corticospinal tract, anterior thalamic radiation, and superior longitudinal fasciculus at 7. Conclusions: Early positive parenting may be more strongly associated with subcortical brain development for boys born VPT, while early intrusive parenting may be associated with smaller cortical brain volumes and altered white matter microstructure in children born VPT.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalThe Clinical Neuropsychologist
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 Aug 2020


  • brain development
  • brain volume
  • diffusion imaging
  • Parenting
  • prematurity

Cite this

Treyvaud, K., Thompson, D. K., Kelly, C. E., Loh, W. Y., Inder, T. E., Cheong, J. L. Y., Doyle, L. W., & Anderson, P. J. (Accepted/In press). Early parenting is associated with the developing brains of children born very preterm. The Clinical Neuropsychologist. https://doi.org/10.1080/13854046.2020.1811895