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Saudi J Med Med Sci. 2019 Jan-Apr;7(1):3-8. doi: 10.4103/sjmms.sjmms_163_17. Epub 2018 Dec 14.

Epigenetic Transmission of Maternal Behavior: Impact on the Neurobiological System of Healthy Mothers.

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Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
Department of Psychiatry, King Fahd Hospital of the University, Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
Centre for Women's Mental Health, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.


Quality of maternal caregiving not only impacts children's development but can also result in heritable changes in gene expression (i.e., in an epigenetic manner). Consequently, when women become mothers, they adopt parenting behavior similar to that they received at family of origin. This transgenerational transmission of maternal behavior may also be associated with changes in the neurobiological system of future mothers. This review aims to highlight the effect quality of perceived parenting has on maternal behavior and the neurobiological system of mothers, specifically the oxytocin system, brain morphology and brain function. This would likely help in finding biomarkers that profile the impact of perceived parenting on mothers, and thus allow identification of mothers who experience poor-quality parenting for intervention.


Epigenetic; maternal behavior; mothers; oxytocin; perceived parenting; transgenerational

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