Close relationships with parents promote healthier brain development in high-risk adolescents, and protect against alcohol use disorder

summary: Close and supportive parental relationships can help mitigate the genetic and environmental risks of developing alcohol use disorder for at-risk adolescents.

Source: State University of New York

For teens at increased risk of alcohol use disorder (AUD), close relationships with parents can help mitigate their genetic and environmental vulnerabilities, a new study finds.

Offspring of people with AUD are four times more likely than others to develop the disorder. Increasing evidence suggests that this inherited risk may be amplified or mitigated by parenting quality.

Deficient parenting has been linked to a range of negative behavioral and psychological outcomes, while positive parenting appears to be important for the development of a higher level of social, emotional, and cognitive traits.

Typical neural development during adolescence enhances regulatory and executive function abilities (eg, attention, inhibition, and decision-making), enabling adaptive responses to challenging situations. Deficiencies in these abilities underlie the risk of substance use disorders.

Research has demonstrated that subjects with AUD and their offspring, during cognitive tasks, show decreased activity on two measures of quantifiable brain responses.

These – known as the P3 and anterior theta (FT) – are important in self-regulation and executive function. Low levels of P3 and FT predict progression of AUD and can be visualized as a ‘neurodevelopmental delay’. Little is known about the potential for positive parenting, particularly by fathers, to prevent this outcome in adolescents at high risk for developing AUD.

to study in Alcoholism: clinical and experimental researchInvestigators explored associations between youthful vulnerability P3 and FT, risky drinking, and closeness to their mothers and fathers during adolescence.

Between 2004 and 2019, researchers recruited 1,256 young offspring, ages 12 to 22 at baseline, from the Collaborative Study on the Genes of Alcoholism (COGA), a large, multigenerational family study of the genetic and environmental influences that drive AUD.

These offspring were interviewed and had their brain function assessed twice a year. The interviews covered participants’ substance use, mental health, and aspects of their home environments, including closeness to their mothers and fathers between the ages of 12 and 17. Their P3 and FT responses were measured using a visual task.

The researchers also collected data on the participants’ binge drinking, impulsivity (a personality trait known to influence problems with alcohol use and relationships with parents), demographic characteristics, and parental alcohol and substance use. They used statistical analysis to explore the associations between these factors.

It shows a teenage girl
In general, greater closeness to fathers was associated with stronger activity of P3 and FT in the offspring, while closeness to mothers was associated with less binge drinking. The image is in the public domain

In general, greater closeness to fathers was associated with stronger activity of P3 and FT in the offspring, while closeness to mothers was associated with less binge drinking. Certain differences between the sexes also emerged.

Closeness to parents was related to greater P3 in sons but not in daughters; Closeness to mothers was associated with reduced heavy drinking among daughters, but not among sons.

This may reflect the distinct roles of fathers and mothers in child and adolescent development, and the different parenting of boys versus girls. The results were independent of other risk factors, including AUD in the parents, substance use problems, socioeconomic status, and impulsiveness of the offspring.

The study provides compelling evidence that warm, close relationships with parents during adolescence may help build resilience to problem drinking in sons negatively affected by familial AUD and that this partly reflects improved neurocognitive functioning. Aspects of parenting that influence children’s risk of AUD include—and go beyond—drinking behaviours.

The researchers concluded that close bonds with parents during the key transitional period of adolescence can significantly mitigate offspring’s propensity toward risky behaviors and addictive disorders, with significant differences between the sexes.

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About this neurodevelopment, parenting, and AUD research news

author: Gayathri Pandey
Source: State University of New York
Contact: Gayathri Pandey – State University of New York
picture: The image is in the public domain

Original search: Closed access.
Parent-adolescent closeness associations of P3 amplitude, frontal theta, and binge drinking among sons with a high risk for alcohol use disorder.By Gayathri Pandey et al. Alcoholism: clinical and experimental research


Summary

Parent-adolescent closeness associations of P3 amplitude, frontal theta, and binge drinking among sons with a high risk for alcohol use disorder.

background

Parents influence their children’s brain development, neurocognitive function, risk, and resilience to alcohol use disorder (AUD) through genetic, social, and environmental factors. Individuals with AUD and their unaffected infants show reduced parietal P3 amplitude and decreased frontal theta (FT) power, reflecting the inherited neurocognitive deficits associated with AUD. Similarly, children with poor parenting tend to have atypical brain development and higher rates of alcohol problems. Conversely, positive parenting can be protective and critical for the normative development of self-regulation, neurocognitive functioning and the neurobiological systems they serve. However, the role of positive parenting in resilience to AUD is not well known, nor is its association with neurocognitive functioning and behavioral impairment for AUD among sons at risk. Using data from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (n = 1256, mean age [SD] = 19.25 [1.88]), we investigated associations of maternal and paternal closeness during adolescence with offspring P3 amplitude, FT strength, and binge drinking among high-risk offspring.

Methods

Self-reported closeness with mother and father between the ages of 12 and 17 and binge drinking was assessed using the semi-structured assessment of the genetics of alcoholism. P3 amplitude and FT power were evaluated in response to target stimuli using the visual Oddball task.

results

Multivariate regression analyzes showed that proximity to the father was associated with greater P3 amplitude (s = 0.002) and a higher FT power (s = 0.01). Closeness to the mother was associated with less heavy drinking (s = 0.003). Among male offspring, proximity to the father was associated with greater P3 amplitude, but among female offspring, proximity to the mother was associated with less binge drinking. These associations remained statistically significant with the father and mother’s AUD symptoms, socioeconomic status, and filial impulsivity in the model.

conclusions

Among at-risk offspring, parental closeness during adolescence may enhance resilience to the development of AUD and associated neurocognitive deficits albeit with important gender differences.

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