Culture Post: Positive Parenting Buffers Stress’s Effects on the Brain

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by EurekAlert!

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

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal, PNAS NEXUS.

Source: EurekAlert!

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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