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Father-infant interactions and infant regional brain volumes: a cross-sectional MRI study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2019

King's Authors

Abstract

Fathers play a crucial role in their children’s socio-emotional and cognitive development. A plausible intermediate
phenotype underlying this association is father’s impact on infant brain. However, research on the association between
paternal caregiving and child brain biology is scarce, particularly during infancy. Thus, we used magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI) to investigate the relationship between observed father–infant interactions, specifically paternal
sensitivity, and regional brain volumes in a community sample of 3-to-6-month-old infants (N = 28). We controlled for
maternal sensitivity and examined the moderating role of infant communication on this relationship. T2-weighted MR
images were acquired from infants during natural sleep. Higher levels of paternal sensitivity were associated with
smaller cerebellar volumes in infants with high communication levels. In contrast, paternal sensitivity was not
associated with subcortical grey matter volumes in the whole sample, and this was similar in infants with both high and
low communication levels. This preliminary study provides the first evidence for an association between father-child
interactions and variation in infant brain anatomy.

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