Category: Parenting / Families

Symposium

The Impact of Parenting on a Neural Risk Marker of Anxiety in Youth: Examination of Environmental and Genetic Modifiers

Saturday, November 18
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom B, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Parenting | Anxiety | Psychophysiology
Presentation Type: Symposium

To characterize developmental pathways leading to anxiety disorders, it is necessary to examine interactions between genes, neural systems, and environmental factors.  The error-related negativity (ERN) is an acute, negative deflection in the event-related potential (ERP) waveform that occurs when individuals make errors.  This response has been found to be increased in anxious adults and children, and can predict risk for the onset of new anxiety disorders prospectively.  Moreover, punishing errors in the lab results in a potentiated ERN that persists after punishment ends.  Recently, we examined the extent to which a naturalistic environmental factor (harsh parenting) related to an increased ERN in offspring.  Indeed, harsh parenting relates to an increased ERN in children and the ERN mediated the relationship between parenting and child anxiety, suggesting that parenting may shape children’s ERN and thereby risk for anxiety.  Recent work suggests that variation in the brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) gene may moderate the impact of early life adversity on outcomes, as well as fear-learning.  In the current study, we examined whether BDNF moderates the impact of harsh parenting on the ERN in children: 201 parents and children completed observational and parent-report measures of parenting when children were 3 years old; and the ERN was measured when children were 6 years old.  Results suggested that harsh parenting predicted an increased ERN, but only among children with a met allele of the BDNF genotype.  We also found evidence of moderated mediation such that the ERN mediated the relationship between parenting and anxiety disorders, only if children had a met allele.  Results were similar using diagnostic and dimensional symptom outcomes.  These findings suggest that children with the met allele are particularly vulnerable to the impact of harsh parenting and thereby anxiety disorders.

Alexandria Meyer

Assistant Professor
Florida State University

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The Impact of Parenting on a Neural Risk Marker of Anxiety in Youth: Examination of Environmental and Genetic Modifiers



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