Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Pilyoung Kim

Second Advisor

Angela Narayan

Third Advisor

Kateri McRae

Fourth Advisor

Erika Manczak

Fifth Advisor

Jennifer Greenfield


Caregiving, Maternal care, Maternal neurology


Recalled memories of caregiving in childhood are especially salient during the postpartum period and inform mothers’ conceptualization of her new parenting role. Positive perceptions of care received from one’s parents are related to improved maternal-infant bonding and positive parenting behaviors, whereas negative perceptions of care convey risk for maladaptive parenting. Few studies have investigated neural and biological mechanisms contributing to observed associations between childhood care and the adaptation to motherhood. The following studies address this gap by examining how perceptions of childhood parental care and overprotection are related to maternal behavior, oxytocin levels, and neural response. Methods: Perceived childhood maternal and paternal care and overprotection were measured using the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI) for 54 first-time mothers. Participants’ salivary oxytocin and direct observations of sensitive and intrusive parenting behaviors were assessed during mother-infant play. Lastly, participants completed fMRI scanning, wherein neural activation was measured while listening to her own and control infant cry. Paper one examined maternal care and overprotection during childhood, whereas paper two focused on childhood care and overprotection received from fathers. Results: Both papers revealed independent and interactive associations of perceptions of childhood care, overprotection, and average oxytocin in relation to maternal neural response. Of note, paper one demonstrated that higher childhood maternal care and higher oxytocin interactively related to enhanced anterior cingulate activation to own infant cry. Paper two showed that oxytocin moderated the effects of paternal overprotection in the supramarginal gyrus; exploratory analyses revealed that neural response was associated with sensitive and intrusive behaviors. Conclusion: Findings demonstrate that recollections of childhood care and overprotection relate to maternal neural response, with downstream impacts for parenting behaviors. In addition, childhood caregiving and oxytocin interact in ways that contribute to vulnerability or resilience during the postpartum period.

Publication Statement

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Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Leah Grande

File size

213 pgs

File format





Psychology, Psychobiology, Neurosciences

Available for download on Thursday, September 26, 2024