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.