Close relationships with parents promote healthier brain development in high-risk teens, buffering against alcohol use disorderThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Summary: Close and supportive parental relationships may help moderate genetic and environmental risk of developing alcohol use disorder in at-risk teenagers.
source: State University of New York
For teenagers at increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD), close relationships with parents may help moderate their genetic and environmental vulnerability, a new study suggests.
The offspring of people with AUD are four times more likely than others to develop the disorder. Increasing evidence suggests that this hereditary risk may be amplified or moderated by the quality of parenting.
Inadequate parenting is associated with a range of negative behavioral and psychiatric outcomes, whereas positive parenting appears critical for the development of higher-level social, emotional, and cognitive traits.
Typical neurological development during adolescence refines self-regulatory and executive function abilities (eg, attention, inhibition, and decision-making), enabling adaptive responses to challenging situations. Deficits in these abilities underlie the risk of developing substance use disorders.
Research has found that people with AUD and their offspring, during cognitive tasks, exhibit low activity on two measures of quantifiable brain responses.
These – known as P3 and frontal theta (FT) – are important for self-regulation and executive function. Low levels of P3 and FT predict the development of AUD and can be conceptualized as “neurodevelopmental delay”. Little is known about the potential of positive parenting, particularly by fathers, to buffer against this outcome in teenagers at high risk of developing AUD.
For the study in Alcoholism: Clinical and experimental studiesresearchers examined the relationships among vulnerable young people’s P3, FT, risky drinking, and closeness to their mothers and fathers during adolescence.
Between 2004 and 2019, researchers recruited 1,256 young offspring, aged 12-22 years at baseline, from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), a large, multigenerational family study of genetic and environmental influences , driving the AUD.
These offspring were interviewed and their brain function assessed twice a year. Interviews covered participants’ substance use, mental health, and aspects of their home environment, including closeness with their mothers and fathers between the ages of 12-17. Their P3 and FT responses were measured using a visual task.
The researchers also collected data on participants’ binge drinking, impulsivity (a personality trait known to affect alcohol use problems and relationships with parents), demographic characteristics, and parental alcohol and substance use. They used statistical analysis to examine the relationships between these factors.
Overall, greater closeness to fathers was associated with stronger P3 and FT activity in offspring, whereas closeness to mothers was associated with less binge drinking. Some gender differences also emerged.
Closeness to fathers was associated with greater P3 in sons but not daughters; closeness to mothers was associated with less drinking among daughters but not among sons.
This may reflect different roles of fathers and mothers in child and adolescent development and different parenting of boys versus girls. The findings were independent of other risk factors, including parental AUD, substance use problems, socioeconomic status, and offspring impulsivity.
The study provides strong evidence that warm, close relationships with parents during adolescence may help build resilience to problem drinking in offspring negatively affected by family AUD and that this in part reflects improved neurocognitive functioning. Aspects of parenting affecting children’s risk of AUD include and go beyond drinking behavior.
The researchers concluded that close bonds with parents during the key transitional period of adolescence can significantly moderate offspring’s propensity for risky behavior and addictive disorders, with important gender differences.
For this news on neurodevelopmental, parenting, and AUD research
Original research: Closed access.
“Associations of parent-adolescent closeness with P3 amplitude, frontal theta, and drinking among offspring at high risk for alcohol use disorder” by Gayathri Pandey et al. Alcoholism: Clinical and experimental studies
Associations of parent-adolescent closeness with P3 amplitude, frontal theta, and drinking among offspring at high risk for alcohol use disorder
Parents influence their offspring’s brain development, neurocognitive function, risk, and resilience to alcohol use disorder (AUD) through genetic and social-environmental factors. Individuals with AUD and their unaffected children exhibit low parietal P3 amplitude and low frontal theta (FT) power, reflecting inherited neurocognitive deficits associated with AUD. Similarly, children who have poor parenting tend to have atypical brain development and more often alcohol problems. Conversely, positive parenting may be protective and critical for the normative development of self-regulation, neurocognitive functioning, and the neurobiological systems that support them. Yet the role of positive parenting in resilience to AUD is understudied, and its relationship to neurocognitive functioning and behavioral vulnerability to AUD among high-risk offspring is less well known. Using data from the Prospective Cohort of the Genetics of Alcoholism Collaborative Study (n = 1256, average age [SD] = 19.25 [1.88]), we examined associations of maternal and paternal closeness during adolescence with offspring P3 amplitude, FT power, and drinking among high-risk offspring.
Self-reported closeness to mother and father between ages 12 and 17 and binge drinking were assessed using the Semistructured Assessment of Genetics of Alcoholism. P3 amplitude and FT power were assessed in response to target stimuli using the Visual Oddball Task.
Multivariate multiple regression analyzes indicated that closeness to the father was associated with greater P3 amplitude (p = 0.002) and higher FT power (p = 0.01). Closeness to mother is associated with less binge eating (p = 0.003). Among male offspring, closeness to the father was associated with greater P3 amplitude, but among female offspring, closeness to the mother was associated with less binging. These associations remained statistically significant with paternal and maternal AUD symptoms, socioeconomic status, and offspring impulsivity in the model.
Among high-risk offspring, closeness to parents during adolescence may promote resilience for developing AUD and associated neurocognitive deficits, although there are important gender differences.
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