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Can Positive Parenting Promote Aggression Regulation After Negative Social Feedback? An fMRI Intervention Study in Twins

Sat, March 23, 12:45 to 2:15pm, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 3, Room 343

Integrative Statement

Dealing with social evaluations and regulating aggression in the case of negative social feedback are important prerequisites for developing social relations in middle childhood. At the same time this phase is marked by a gap in our knowledge of the genetic and environmental influences on brain responses related to behavioral and cognitive control. In a large developmental twin sample (512 7-9-year-olds) the heritability and neural underpinnings of behavioral aggression following social evaluation were investigated, using the Social Network Aggression Task (SNAT, Figure 1). Participants viewed pictures of peers that gave positive, neutral or negative feedback to the participant's profile. Next, participants could blast a loud noise towards the peer as an index of aggression. Initial results showed that negative social feedback elicited behavioral aggression (i.e., longer noise blasts, Achterberg et al., 2018). Moreover, decreased dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) activation during negative feedback was associated with more aggressive behavior after negative feedback (Figure 2). This is in line with prior studies in adults which showed that more DLPFC activity after negative social feedback was related to less subsequent aggression (Achterberg et al., 2016). Genetic modeling showed that 13-14% of the variance in DLPFC activity was explained by genetics, leaving ample room for environmental influences. To further investigate which environmental factors play a role in explaining the variance in brain activation and aggression regulation, we tested whether specific environmental influences (e.g. supportive parenting) might facilitate aggression regulation in children. We address these questions experimentally in a randomized control trial. Seventy-four families received a video feedback intervention to promote positive parenting and sensitive discipline (VIPP-SD). The control group (140 families) received a dummy intervention (phone calls),within the same time frame and with the same frequency. VIPP-SD has proven to diminish externalizing behavior problems such as aggression in younger age groups (Juffer, Bakermans-Kranenburg & van IJzendoorn, 2017), thus promoting behavioral control, and has now for the first time been used with this age group. We are currently finishing up the post-intervention data collection and 382 children (9-11-year-old) have participated in the second fMRI session so far. At SRCD 2019 we will present the first results of our longitudinal fMRI intervention study. We will be able to investigate i) developmental age-effects of aggression regulation and cognitive control, and ii) whether any increase in positive parenting affects children's aggression regulation and cognitive control. By doing so, we can provide insights on parental influences on the developmental trajectory and neural mechanisms of behavioural and cognitive control in middle childhood.