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161. Associations between early parenting and children’s neural development
Early caregiving is associated with long-term alterations in offspring brain structure and neuroendocrine responses to stress. Whether these associations are causal is unclear, although they may potentially play a role in maladaptive responses to psychosocial stress, a potential mechanism linking early care to later maladjustment. However, past work has emphasized extremely impoverished negative care (e.g., institutions), such that more normative yet suboptimal care is less well understood in terms of associations with child neural development. We therefore examined associations between age 3 hostile parenting, age 3 child cortisol stress reactivity, and grey matter concentration (GMC) of fronto-limbic structures involved in emotion and arousal, assessed at age 11. Eight-five typically developing children and their primary caregivers participated at both waves of data collection. Preliminary analyses suggest that the association between early hostile parenting and age eleven GMC of the cingulum, a region implicated in emotion regulation, differed depending on children’s early cortisol stress reactivity. In particular, hostile parenting was negatively associated with GMC for children lower in cortisol reactivity, whereas the association was positive for highly reactive children. These results suggest that the impact of early stress on neural development differs depending on children’s HPA axis reactivity.