Trustworthy Parenting Advice & Child Care Information

Mental Health

The impact of positive parenting on the child’s brain development

The impact of positive parenting

The abundance of positive parental behavior during the early years of life stimulates the structural & psychological development of certain regions of the brain. These regions are implicated in an adult’s reward processes, emotional reactivity and social regulation. It is now evident that parenting style has a major role in shaping the developing human brain.

Impacts of parenting

Positive parenting (warm and supportive) has been suggested as a critical environmental factor that is linked to greater cognitive, behavioral, and psychological development throughout the lifespan. On the contrary, adverse childhood environments can produce several psychopathologies in an adult.

Structural development of the brain

One study was conducted to investigate the effects of positive maternal behavior on structural brain development using MRI scans in adolescence. There were 188 participants, among which 92 were female participants. MRI scans were done at approximately 12 years old, and follow-up MRI scans were performed 4 years later. Different results were observed in participants with absent/ignorant mothers and in those having supportive mothers. In participants with a higher frequency of positive maternal behavior, MRI scan showed increased volumetric growth of the Amygdala & hippocampus. These areas of the brain are involved in the processing of emotions and memories associated with fear throughout life.

How does the parenting style affect the emotional and psychological developments in a child?

Studies have found associations between parenting styles and functional activation in the brain. The most observed activation in the caregiving environment is related to emotional arousal, emotion regulation, reward processing, cognitive control, and social-emotional information processing.

One study suggests that the absence of warm parenting in the early years of life leads to heightened emotional arousal to negative stimuli in youth. There is increased emotional reactivity to small and petty issues.

What are the cognitive & social developments in a child?

Appropriate interaction is a vital parenting tool with wide-ranging benefits for the child, from better cognitive and psychosocial development to protection from disease and mortality. Research was conducted on Mother’s emotional presence & child’s health in the Department of Molecular Biology, New Jersey, USA. The research concluded that with greater maternal responsiveness, children were able to achieve the following milestones:

  • Social competence and fewer behavioral problems at three years.
  • High intelligence quotient (IQ) and cognitive growth at four-and-a-half years.
  • Higher school achievement and self-esteem at seven years.

Conversely, a lack of maternal responsiveness was associated with behavioral problems and delayed cognitive development.

An insight from mamahood

It is evident that positive parenting has many facets, from short-term structural & cognitive development of the child to long-term prevention of psychopathologies in adult life. In order to reduce the adverse effects linked to toxic household environments, interventions are needed to enhance warm, nurturing and responsive parenting.

Our References

Mamahood content is written by practicing physicians and healthcare professionals who rely on evidence-based resources, the latest research, and their experience to ensure our users get credible and updated information they can trust.

  • Chen FR, Raine A. Effects of harsh parenting and positive parenting practices on youth aggressive behavior: The moderating role of early pubertal timing. Aggress Behav. 2018 Jan;44(1):18-28. doi: 10.1002/ab.21720. Epub 2017 Jul 12. PMID: 28699265.
  • Bröning S, Brandt M. „Mindful Parenting“ – Achtsamkeit in der Eltern-Kind-Beziehung [Mindful Parenting: Mindfulness in the Parent-Child Relationship]. Z Kinder Jugendpsychiatr Psychother. 2022 Sep;50(5):395-406. German. doi: 10.1024/1422-4917/a000853. Epub 2022 Feb 21. PMID: 35187975.
  • Eshel, B. Daelmans, M.C. de Mello, J. Martines Responsive parenting: interventions and outcomes. World Health Organ., 84 (2006), pp. 991-998 Google Scholar
  • Mrug S, Barker-Kamps M, Orihuela CA, Patki A, Tiwari HK. Childhood Neighborhood Disadvantage, Parenting, and Adult Health. Am J Prev Med. 2022 Jul;63(1 Suppl 1):S28-S36. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2022.01.028. PMID: 35725138; PMCID: PMC9219037.

Brody GH, Yu T, Miller GE, Ehrlich KB, Chen E. Preventive parenting intervention during childhood and young black adults’ unhealthful behaviors: a randomized controlled trial. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2019 Jan;60(1):63-71. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12968. Epub 2018 Sep 11. PMID: 30203840.

Have any Questions for Dr. Saba?

Download the Mamahood App and join the community today!

Scroll to Top
Apply as a Health Advisor

If you are passionate about helping women improve their health and well-being, we invite you to apply today and be a part of our mission to improve healthcare access and outcomes for women.

Please ensure to meet the below criteria before applying:

The successful candidate will be responsible for providing expert advice and guidance to users on health-related issues via online chat.