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Apr 6, 2021
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Parental anger, yelling and punishment lead to changes in the brains of children

Abuse and harsh parenting

Child abuse can include all types of physical or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, neglect and exploitation. Such practices cause severe damage to the health of the child.

Previously, it was known that children who are abused tend to shrink their prefrontal cortex and amygdala over time. These parts of the brain play a key role in the regulation of emotions, the development of depression and anxiety disorder. These mental disorders can accompany the child later in life.

Many harsh parenting techniques do not fit the definition of abuse. Most people in developed countries consider them normal. However, it is known that such practices can lead to anxiety and the development of anxiety in children. These include spanking or yelling in response to challenging child behavior, light physical punishment in various forms (including, for example, shaking). The hallmarks of tough upbringing include the emotional coloring of events: parents feel anger during punishment.

How rigid parenting can affect the brain of children was not previously known.

Tough parenting can affect the brain

The participants in the new study were 94 children aged 2.5 to 9 years, the situation in the families of which scientists have been monitoring for several years. Each year, they assessed parenting practices and children’s anxiety levels.

Scientists analyzed images of the children’s brains obtained with magnetic resonance imaging. They found that the thickness of the gray matter in the prefrontal cortex and amygdala was less in volume the more often children faced harsh parenting.

“This data is both significant and new. For the first time, abusive parenting practices that did not meet the child abuse criteria were associated with a decrease in the volume of certain brain structures – the same as for severe bullying, ”said Sabrina Suffren of the University of Montreal, co-author of the study.


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