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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2015 Oct;54(10):824-831.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2015.07.009. Epub 2015 Aug 4.

Normal variation in early parental sensitivity predicts child structural brain development.

Author information

1
Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands; Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Generation R Study Group, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
2
Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Generation R Study Group, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
3
Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands.
4
Generation R Study Group, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Erasmus MC: University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
5
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
6
Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
7
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Electronic address: h.tiemeier@erasmusmc.nl.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Early caregiving can have an impact on brain structure and function in children. The influence of extreme caregiving experiences has been demonstrated, but studies on the influence of normal variation in parenting quality are scarce. Moreover, no studies to date have included the role of both maternal and paternal sensitivity in child brain maturation. This study examined the prospective relation between mothers' and fathers' sensitive caregiving in early childhood and brain structure later in childhood.

METHOD:

Participants were enrolled in a population-based prenatal cohort. For 191 families, maternal and paternal sensitivity was repeatedly observed when the child was between 1 year and 4 years of age. Head circumference was assessed at 6 weeks, and brain structure was assessed using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measurements at 8 years of age.

RESULTS:

Higher levels of parental sensitivity in early childhood were associated with larger total brain volume (adjusted β = 0.15, p = .01) and gray matter volume (adjusted β = 0.16, p = .01) at 8 years, controlling for infant head size. Higher levels of maternal sensitivity in early childhood were associated with a larger gray matter volume (adjusted β = 0.13, p = .04) at 8 years, independent of infant head circumference. Associations with maternal versus paternal sensitivity were not significantly different.

CONCLUSION:

Normal variation in caregiving quality is related to markers of more optimal brain development in children. The results illustrate the important role of both mothers and fathers in child brain development.

KEYWORDS:

MRI; brain structure; father; mother; sensitivity

PMID:
26407492
DOI:
10.1016/j.jaac.2015.07.009
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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