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Parenting and Salience Network Connectivity Among African Americans: A Protective Pathway for Health-Risk Behaviors

Supportive parenting during childhood has been associated with many positive developmental outcomes for offspring in adulthood, including fewer health-risk behaviors. Little is known about the neural mechanisms underlying these associations. The present study followed rural African Americans (n = 91, 52% female) from late childhood (ages 11-13) to emerging adulthood (age 25). Parent-child communication was assessed at ages 11, 12, and 13. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used at age 25 to measure resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) of the anterior salience network (ASN). Harmful alcohol use and emotional eating were also assessed at age 25. Structural equation modeling was used to test pathways from parent-child communication at ages 11-13 to harmful alcohol use and emotional eating at age 25, via rsFC of the ASN. Greater parent-child communication across ages 11-13 forecast greater rsFC of the ASN at age 25, which, in turn, was associated with lower harmful alcohol use and emotional eating at age 25. Significant indirect effects through the ASN were present for both outcomes. These findings indicate the importance of parenting in late childhood for adaptive behaviors and suggest a pathway via higher ASN coherence. This network was implicated in both harmful alcohol use and emotional eating, corroborating evidence of overlap in brain regions for dysregulated substance use and eating behaviors, and revealing divergent pathways. These findings support the value of prevention and intervention efforts targeting parenting skills in childhood toward fostering long-term, adaptive neurocognitive development.

 

Parenting and Salience Network Connectivity Among African Americans: A Protective Pathway for Health-Risk Behaviors

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