Childhood adversity and anxiety have been associated with increased risk for internalizing disorders later in life and with a range of brain structural abnormalities. However, few studies have examined the link between harsh parenting practices and brain anatomy, outside of severe maltreatment or psychopathology. Moreover, to our knowledge, there has been no research on parenting and subclinical anxiety symptoms which remain persistent over time during childhood (i.e., between 2.5 and 9 years old). Here, we examined data in 94 youth, divided into four cells based on their levels of coercive parenting (high / low) and of anxiety (high / low) between 2.5 and 9 years old. Anatomical images were analyzed using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and FreeSurfer. Smaller gray matter volumes in the prefrontal cortex regions and in the amygdala were observed in youth with high versus low levels of harsh parenting over time. In addition, we observed significant interaction effects between parenting practices and subclinical anxiety symptoms in rostral anterior cingulate cortical thickness and in amygdala volume. These youth should be followed further in time to identify which youth will or will not go on to develop an anxiety disorder, and to understand factors associated with the development of sustained anxiety psychopathology.
View details for DOI 10.1017/S0954579420001716
View details for PubMedID 33745487