Delta-beta coupling is associated with paternal caregiving behaviors during preschool
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Neural systems that index self-regulation have been associated with mental health outcomes, including risk for anxiety problems, from early in life. Yet, little is known about the environmental factors that may impact the development of neural systems of regulation. Behavioral work suggests that sensitive parenting, or parents' ability to correctly interpret and respond to children's signals, supports the development of regulation. Conversely, harsh parenting, or uninvolved or punitive parent behaviors, is thought to compromise developing regulatory systems. We recorded preschoolers' baseline electroencephalography (EEG) and tested whether individual differences in delta-beta coupling were linked to sensitive or harsh parenting behaviors in mothers and fathers. Using Fisher's r-to-z transform, we found that preschoolers whose fathers were low (vs. high) in harsh parenting showed greater coupling at parietal electrode sites (z=2.66, p=0.00); preschoolers whose fathers were high (vs. low) in harsh parenting showed greater coupling at frontal electrode sites (z=-2.14, p=0.02). Heightened coupling at frontal electrodes was also visible for children who showed high (vs. low) levels of social fear (z=-2.11, p=0.02), suggesting that enhanced frontal coupling may be associated with increased risk for anxiety problems. No differences in coupling were seen based on levels of sensitive parenting behaviors in mothers or fathers. Results provide initial evidence that harsh parenting behaviors in fathers are associated with differences in a general index of neural regulation in preschoolers, which may have implications for the development of social fear in early life.
author list (cited authors)
Najjar, R., & Brooker, R. J.