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Positive parenting gets “under the skin”, showing up years later in the cortisol response

15 December 2017

Adolescence is when values and relationships are formed and things happen that leave their sticky fingerprints on the life that follows.

Even, it seems, in the everyday functioning of brain systems. New research published in Developmental Science shows that when teenagers have a positive relationship with their parents, then as adults their brains and bodies respond to stress in a way that helps them better engage with the world. However, the study suggests this benefit may be denied to those raised in a rough environment, which seems to override the influence of positive parenting.

The researchers, led by Elizabeth Shirtcliff of Iowa State University, studied hundreds of people from Seattle, USA, who, when they were teenagers, had described their relations with their parents through questions like “are you close to your mother?” Trained raters also scored how much encouragement and appropriate reward they received from their parents, based on videos taken of the teens and their parents completing various structured tasks.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.

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