Close relationships with parents promote healthier brain development in high-risk teenagers, protecting against alcohol use disorders

Close relationships with parents promote healthier brain development in high-risk teenagers, protecting against alcohol use disorders

Close relationships with parents promote healthier brain development in high-risk teenagers, protecting against alcohol use disorders

Abstract: Close, supportive parental relationships may help moderate the genetic and environmental risk of developing alcohol use disorders 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 mitigate their genetic and environmental vulnerability, a new study suggests.

Offspring of people with AUD are four times more likely to develop the disorder than others. A growing body of evidence suggests that this hereditary risk may be either enhanced or moderated by the quality of parenting.

Insufficient parenting is associated with a range of negative behavioral and psychiatric outcomes, while positive parenting appears to be critical for the development of higher-order social, emotional, and cognitive traits.

Typical neurological development during adolescence refines self-regulatory and executive functions (eg, attention, inhibition, and decision-making), enabling adaptive responses to challenging situations. Deficiencies in these abilities are the basis of risk for the development of addictive disorders.

Research has shown that people with AUD and their offspring, during cognitive tasks, show low activity on two measures of measurable brain responses.

These — known as P3 and frontal theta (FT) — are important in 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 protect against this outcome in teenagers at high risk of developing AUD.

For studies in Alcoholism: clinical and experimental researchresearchers investigated associations between 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, ages 12 to 22 at baseline, from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), a large, multigenerational family study of the genetic and environmental influences that drive AUD.

These offspring were interviewed and their brain function was assessed every two years. 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 and 17. Their P3 and FT responses were measured with a visual task.

The researchers also collected data on participants’ binge drinking, impulsivity (a personality trait known to influence drinking problems and relationships with parents), demographic characteristics, and parental alcohol and substance use. They used statistical analysis to investigate the association between these factors.

Close relationships with parents promote healthier brain development in high-risk teenagers, protecting against alcohol use disorders
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. The image is in the public domain

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. Certain gender differences also appeared.

Closeness to fathers was associated with greater P3 in sons, but not in daughters; closeness to mothers was associated with less drinking among daughters, but not sons.

This may reflect the different roles of fathers and mothers in child and adolescent development and the different parenting of boys versus girls. Findings were independent of other risk factors, including parental AUD, substance abuse problems, socioeconomic status, and offspring impulsivity.

The study provides compelling evidence that warm, close relationships with parents during adolescence may help build resilience to problem drinking in offspring adversely affected by familial AUD and that this in part reflects improved neurocognitive functioning. Aspects of parenting that influence children’s risk of AUD include—and go beyond—drinking behaviors.

The researchers conclude that a close bond with parents during the crucial transitional period of adolescence can significantly moderate offspring’s propensity for risky behaviors and addictive disorders, with important gender differences.

See also

This shows a little boy playing peak-a-boo

About this news about neurodevelopment, parenting and AUD research

Author: Gayathri Pandey
Source: State University of New York
Contact: Gayathri Pandey – State University of New York
Picture: The image is in the public domain

Original research: Closed access.
Association of parent-adolescent closeness with P3 amplitude, frontal theta, and binge drinking among offspring at high risk for alcohol use disorders” by Gayathri Pandey et al. Alcoholism: clinical and experimental research


Abstract

Association of parent-adolescent closeness with P3 amplitude, frontal theta, and binge drinking among offspring at high risk for alcohol use disorders

Background

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 show low parietal P3 amplitude and low frontal theta (FT) power, reflecting heritable neurocognitive deficits associated with AUD. Likewise, children with poor parenting tend to have atypical brain development and a higher rate of alcohol problems. Conversely, positive parenting may be protective and critical for the normative development of self-regulation, neurocognitive functioning, and the neurobiological systems that accompany them. However, the role of positive parenting in resilience to AUD is understudied, and its association with neurocognitive functioning and behavioral vulnerability to AUD among high-risk offspring is less well known. Using data from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism Prospective Cohort (N = 1256, middle age [SD] = 19.25 [1.88]), we investigated the association of maternal and paternal closeness during adolescence with offspring P3 amplitude, FT strength, and binge drinking among high-risk offspring.

Methods

Closeness to mother and father between ages 12 and 17 and heavy drinking were assessed using the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism. P3 amplitude and FT power were assessed in response to target stimuli using the Visual Oddball Task.

the results

Multivariate multiple regression analyzes showed that closeness with the father is associated with a higher P3 amplitude (p = 0.002) and higher FT power (p = 0.01). Closeness with the mother is associated with less drinking (p = 0.003). Among male offspring, closeness to father was associated with greater P3 amplitude, but among female offspring, closeness to mother was associated with less drinking. These associations remained statistically significant with AUD symptoms in the father and mother, socioeconomic status and impulsivity of the offspring in the model.

Findings

Among high-risk offspring, closeness to parents during adolescence may promote resistance to the development of AUD and related neurocognitive deficits, albeit with important gender differences.

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