News Detail

Lynn Fainsilber Katz was one of the authors of a parental training study that is the subject of this Eureka Alert! Article

Training for parents referred to CPS improves toddler's physiological regulation


A parental training program for families referred to Child Protective Services improved toddlers' unconscious reactions to mildly stressful situations, as well as improving parents' behavior, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis and the University of Washington. The work is published August 28 in Developmental Science .

"In everything we do, the brain and body are coordinated through the autonomic nervous system," said Paul Hastings, professor in the UC Davis Department of Psychology and Center for Mind and Brain. "We know that these neurobiological systems are shaped by our experiences in the world, including parenting."

The autonomic nervous system functions primarily below the level of conscious thought and has two arms: the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The better-known sympathetic system regulates "fight or flight" responses. The parasympathetic system tends to calm those responses and contributes to our ability to engage socially and emotionally with other people.

People who have experienced maltreatment as children are at risk of developing depression and other mental health problems later in life. This may be tied to the effects of poor parenting on physiology, including the parasympathetic system. But under normal circumstances, it's difficult to study whether parenting style can cause changes in a child's physiology - you couldn't ethically or practically do an experiment in which children are assigned to be in families with better or worse parents and see what happens, Hastings said...

Read the entire article here .

Other authors on the study in addition to Hastings and Oxford are Sarah Kahle at the UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Charles Fleming, Mary Jane Lohr and Lynn Fainsilber Katz at the University of Washington. The work was supported by the University of Washington Research Royalty Program, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis.