Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

New Research Suggests Positive Parenting May Protect Youth Brain Development from Effects of Childhood Stress

Childhood stress and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) negatively impact the brain development of children as shown in decreased hippocampal volume. However, positive parenting strategies, such as expressions of warmth and support, may help protect against developmental deficits. Researchers compared brain structures and behavioral health of children aged 10-17, as well as youth- and caregiver-reported positive parenting. Children who reported high levels of childhood stress and positive parenting did not show increased behavioral health concerns or decreased hippocampus volumes, as opposed to children who experienced high levels of childhood stress but not high levels of positive parenting. Notably, caregiver-reported positive parenting did not predict either behavioral concerns or hippocampal volume. The findings suggest that positive parenting can be a protective factor against adverse childhood experiences, and demonstrate the importance of including youth perspectives directly in research. To learn more, read the study in PNAS Nexus.