Positive parenting predicts the development of adolescent brain structure: a longitudinal study

Sarah Whittle, Julian G Simmons, Meg Dennison, Nandita Vijayakumar, Orli Schwartz, Marie B.H. Yap, Lisa B Sheeber, Nicholas Brian Allen

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96 Citations (Scopus)


Little work has been conducted that examines the effects of positive environmental experiences on brain development to date. The aim of this study was to prospectively investigate the effects of positive (warm and supportive) maternal behavior on structural brain development during adolescence, using longitudinal structural MRI. Participants were 188 (92 female) adolescents, who were part of a longitudinal adolescent development study that involved mother-adolescent interactions and MRI scans at approximately 12 years old, and follow-up MRI scans approximately 4 years later. FreeSurfer software was used to estimate the volume of limbic-striatal regions (amygdala, hippocampus, caudate, putamen, pallidum, and nucleus accumbens) and the thickness of prefrontal regions (anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal cortices) across both time points. Higher frequency of positive maternal behavior during the interactions predicted attenuated volumetric growth in the right amygdala, and accelerated cortical thinning in the right anterior cingulate (males only) and left and right orbitofrontal cortices, between baseline and follow up. These results have implications for understanding the biological mediators of risk and protective factors for mental disorders that have onset during adolescence
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-17
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes

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