The Associations of Maternal Emotion Dysregulation and Parenting Behavior with White Matter Integrity in Children Open Access

Wang, Chenyang (Spring 2021)

Permanent URL:



Parental emotion regulation plays a significant role in parents’ interactions with their children, influencing the development of children’s emotional and cognitive processes. These interactions are known to affect neural plasticity, particularly during sensitive periods of development. However, little is known about how parental emotion dysregulation (ED) and parenting style is associated with variation in children’s brain structure, including white matter (WM) connectivity, which was the goal of this study.


Forty-five African American mother-child dyads were recruited from an intergenerational trauma study; mothers were given ED and parenting style (parenting questionnaire, PQ) measures. Diffusion-weighted images were collected, and child emotion regulation measures were administered to children; deterministic tractography was used to reconstruct WM pathways relevant to emotion regulation. Metrics of WM microstructure and connectivity (e.g., fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), and radial diffusivity (RD)) were extracted for each pathway.


Maternal ED negatively correlated with connectivity metrics of the right fornix (MD: r=0.48, p=0.001; RD: r=0.46, p=0.002). No significant correlations were observed between child WM indices and the PQ. Parent-report sadness inhibition negatively correlated with MD of the right cingulum bundle (r=-0.44, p=0.003), whereas child-report anger inhibition positively correlated with RD of the right superior longitudinal fasciculus segment 3 (r=0.44, p=0.003).


ED in parents may influence the development of a hippocampal-striatal pathway (e.g., fornix) which is implicated in reward/motivation; child anger and sadness inhibition may influence different white matter tracts implicated in ER and stress response. These data suggest that dysregulated parenting may adversely impact adaptation to trauma/stress in children by affecting the connectivity of these WM pathways.

Table of Contents

Chapter I. Introduction 1

Chapter II. Literature Review 7

Chapter III. Methodology 21

Chapter IV. Results 27

Chapter V. Conclusions 29

References 35

Appendix 55

About this Master's Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files