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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2019 Mar 12. pii: S0890-8567(19)30198-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2019.01.018. [Epub ahead of print]

The Influence of Maternal Parenting Style on the Neural Correlates of Emotion Processing in Children.



The importance of parenting in influencing mental health outcomes, particularly depression, during childhood and adolescence is well known. However, the mechanisms are unclear. Emotion processing impairments in children are thought to be both influenced by negative parenting behaviors, and fundamental to depression. As such, investigating the association between parenting behavior and the neural underpinnings of emotion processing in children may provide fundamental clues as to the link between parenting and depression.


86 children (49 girls, mean age=10.1 years) part of a longitudinal study participated. Observational measures of maternal behavior were collected during two mother-child interactions. Children underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing an implicit emotion-processing task, and measures of child internalizing symptoms were collected.


Maternal negative behavior exhibited during an event-planning interaction was associated with decreased activation in the lingual gyrus in girls, while maternal negative behavior during a problem-solving interaction was associated with increased amygdala activation in the whole sample, during processing of angry and fearful faces. Maternal communicative behavior during both mother-child interactions was associated with increased activity in the bilateral middle orbitofrontal cortex in the whole sample. Finally, negative behavior during the problem-solving interaction was associated with connectivity between the amygdala and superior parietal lobe. Brain activity/connectivity was not related to internalizing symptoms.


Results suggest that, in children, maternal behavior may be associated with activity in brain regions involved in emotion processing. However, more research is needed to elucidate the link between parenting, emotion processing and depressive symptoms in young people.


brain function; childhood; emotions; internalizing symptoms; parenting


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