This shows a dad and his kids.
According the authors, the findings support evidence from interventions designed to increase positive and supportive parenting, which are associated with positive outcomes for youth. Credit: Neuroscience News

Positive Parenting Shields Youth from Stress Impact

Summary: Positive parenting, as reported by children and teenagers, can safeguard young individuals from the damaging effects of stressors like financial hardship or serious illness. The research team used MRI data and survey responses from 482 participants aged 10–17.

They confirmed earlier findings that stress is linked to smaller hippocampal volumes and behavioral issues, but these associations were weaker or absent in youths who perceived their parents as warm and supportive.

Interestingly, this protective effect was exclusive to youth-reported positive parenting, highlighting the importance of the child’s perspective.

Key Facts:

  1. Positive parenting, when reported by the youth, mitigates the adverse effects of stress on brain development and behavior.
  2. The resilience-boosting effect of positive parenting was absent in caregiver-reported data, underlining the significance of the child’s viewpoint.
  3. The study backs evidence from interventions aimed at promoting supportive parenting, which have been associated with favorable outcomes for youth.

Source: PNAS Nexus

Positive parenting—as reported by children and teenagers— protects young people from the deleterious effects of stressors like financial hardship or serious illness, according to a study.

Jamie Hanson and colleagues examined magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data along with survey data for 482 participants in an ongoing study, the Healthy Brain Network, who were between the ages of 10–17 at the time of data collection.

Previous work has found associations between stress and small hippocampal volumes as well as between stress and behavioral problems—associations confirmed by this study, although effect sizes were modest. In the current study, the authors found that in young people who reported their parents were warm and supportive, these associations were weaker or absent.

Positive relationships with caregivers may act as “resilience factors,” according to the authors, that protect against the many deleterious developmental outcomes associated with childhood stress. Importantly, this buffering effect was not found for caregiver-reported positive parenting—only for youth-reported positive parenting.

Youth are active agents and may be better informants of their own experience of stress and being cared for than caregivers, the authors argue.

According to the authors, the findings support evidence from interventions designed to increase positive and supportive parenting, which are associated with positive outcomes for youth.

About this stress and parenting research news

Author: Jamie Hanson
Source: PNAS Nexus
Contact: Jamie Hanson – PNAS Nexus
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Positive parenting moderates associations between childhood stress and corticolimbic structure” by Jamie Hanson et al. PNAS Nexus


Abstract

Positive parenting moderates associations between childhood stress and corticolimbic structure

Childhood stress has a deleterious impact on youth behavior and brain development. Resilience factors such as positive parenting (e.g. expressions of warmth and support) may buffer youth against the negative impacts of stress.

We sought to determine whether positive parenting buffers against the negative impact of childhood stress on youth behavior and brain structure and to investigate differences between youth-reported parenting and caregiver-reported parenting.

Cross-sectional behavioral and neuroimaging data were analyzed from 482 youth (39% female and 61% male, ages 10–17) who participated in an ongoing research initiative, the Healthy Brain Network (HBN).

Regression models found that youth-reported positive parenting buffered against the association between childhood stress and youth behavioral problems (β = −0.10, P = 0.04) such that increased childhood stress was associated with increased youth behavior problems only for youth who did not experience high levels of positive parenting.

We also found that youth-reported positive parenting buffered against the association between childhood stress and decreased hippocampal volumes (β = 0.07, P = 0.02) such that youth who experienced high levels of childhood stress and who reported increased levels of positive parenting did not exhibit smaller hippocampal volumes.

Our work identifies positive parenting as a resilience factor buffering youth against the deleterious impact of stressful childhood experiences on problem behaviors and brain development.

These findings underscore the importance of centering youth perspectives of stress and parenting practices to better understand neurobiology, mechanisms of resilience, and psychological well-being.

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