Structural covariance networks in children and their associations with maternal behaviors

S. Richmond, Richard Beare, Katherine A. Johnson, Nicholas B. Allen, Marc L. Seal, S. Whittle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


There is a substantial body of research documenting the influence of early adverse experience on brain development. In contrast, relatively little attention has been directed toward the influence of ‘normative’ variation in parenting behaviors. This study investigated associations between parenting behaviors and structural brain networks, as measured by structural covariance, in a community sample of children. One hundred and forty-five typically developing 8-year-olds and their mothers completed questionnaire measures and two observed parent-child interaction tasks. Structural MRI scans were also obtained from the children. Structural covariance networks based on partial correlation between cortical thickness estimates were constructed, and estimates of efficiency were obtained using graph theoretical analysis. Associations between affective and communicative maternal behaviors and these network metrics were investigated. High levels of observed negative affective and communicative maternal behaviors were associated with decreased local efficiency, whereas high levels of positive affective maternal behaviors were associated with increased local efficiency. The regions implicated (including the cingulate cortex, temporal pole, and temporo-parietal junction) are thought to be involved in the processing of social information. Minimal support was found for an association between global efficiency and maternal behaviors. Our findings suggest that variations in parenting behaviors are associated with structural organization of socio-emotional brain networks in children.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115965
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2019


  • Cortical thickness
  • Graph theory
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Network efficiency
  • Parenting

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