Parenting at Risk: Contributions form Affective Neuroscience

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Parenting is regarded as integral to understanding child psychopathology. Despite widespread agreement that parenting is complex and emotionally-laden, however, studies of on-line emotion processing and emotion regulation in parents, and linkages between these processes and parenting competence, are rare. Recent discoveries in the field of affective neuroscience hold great promise for clarifying neuro-affective processes that under parenting quality. The goal of the present study is to make use of the tools of affective neuroscience to further an understanding of emotion regulatory processes in parenting and their relation to parenting at risk. We see this work as consistent with NICHD's goal of understanding child development and the factors that influence it. The planned work will use high-density EEG to study prefrontal cortical (PFC) asymmetries, in the alpha bandwidth, in mothers of infants in response to child-created emotional events. The study has three major aims: (1) To investigate the degree to which phasic and tonic parental PFC asymmetries are associated with mothers'observed and self-reported emotions in response to "on-line" child-created emotional events;(2) To examine change in rate and magnitude of PFC asymmetry in response to child emotional events, in conjunction with maternal emotions, as an index of mothers'capacity for emotion regulation and as a predictor of parenting quality;and (3) To assess linkages between maternal emotion-asymmetry profiles and mothers'perceptions about children's abilities, adequacy of family resources, life stress, parenting stress, partner conflict, quality of co-parenting, infant temperament, and mothers'their own psychological functioning in interpersonal contexts. We will also assess differences in mothers'EEG and emotional responses to their own infants and from an unfamiliar infant, in order to determine if mothers'responses to their own children are of greater import in predicting parenting quality. From this work, we hope to identify valid procedures for assessing emotion regulatory capacities in mothers in the context of parenting that (1) can be used in an ongoing program of research examining the precursors and impact of parenting at risk, and (2) can contribute to a broader, more comprehensive understanding of the processes that underlie problem parenting and child psychopathology. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Parenting at risk is commonly discussed in emotional terms, and dysregulated parental emotion is believed to place children at risk for disturbed parent-child relationships, poor peer relations, and elevated psychiatric symptoms. However, parenting at risk has most often been studied with respect to static psychiatric (e.g., maternal depression), medical (e.g., low birth weight), or "social address" (e.g., poverty) conditions. Actual studies of how parents regulate their emotions in response to child provocations, and how this relates to actual parenting quality, are rare. The present study will use the tools of affective neuroscience to characterize neuro-affective processes that underlie parenting at risk. Study findings should have immediate relevance to parents and interventionists in (1) clarifying the complex linkages between parents'on-line emotional responding to their children and parenting quality, and (2) suggesting strategies for intervention. PHS 398/2590 (Rev. 09/04, Reissued 4/2006) Page Continuation Format Page
Effective start/end date4/1/103/31/13


  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $156,528.00
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $201,487.00


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