Scientists have suggested that there could be a relationship between harsh parenting involving repeatedly getting angry, hitting, shaking or yelling at children and brain size during development.
According to the new study published in Development and Psychology, scientists have suggested that harsh parenting may lead to small brain in children.
Serious child abuse (such as sexual, physical and emotional abuse), neglect and even institutionalization have been linked to anxiety and depression later in life. Previous studies have already shown that children who have been at the receiving end of such abuse have smaller prefrontal cortexes and amygdala, two structures that play a key role in emotional regulation and the emergence of anxiety and depression.
In this study, researchers observed that the same brain regions were smaller in adolescents who had repeatedly been subjected to harsh parenting practices in childhood, even though the children did not experience more serious acts of abuse.
Researchers say that a study published in 2019 “showed that harsh parenting practices could cause changes in brain function among children, but now we know that they also affect the very structure of children’s brains.”
As part of this monitoring, parenting practices and child anxiety levels were evaluated annually while the children were between the ages of 2 and 9. This data was then used to divide the children into groups based on their exposure (low or high) to persistently harsh parenting practices.
This study is the first to try to identify the links between harsh parenting practices, children’s anxiety and the anatomy of their brains.