Maternal Socioeconomic Disadvantage, Neural Function During Volitional Emotion Regulation, and Parenting

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Emotion regulation, Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Parenting, Maternal behavior, Socioeconomic status


The transition to becoming a mother involves numerous emotional challenges, and the ability to effectively keep negative emotions in check is critical for parenting. Evidence suggests that experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage interferes with parenting adaptations and alters neural processes related to emotion regulation. The present study examined whether socioeconomic disadvantage is associated with diminished neural activation while mothers engaged in volitional (i.e., purposeful) emotion regulation. 59 mothers, at an average of 4 months postpartum, underwent fMRI scanning and completed the Emotion Regulation Task (ERT). When asked to regulate emotions using reappraisal (i.e., Reappraise condition; reframing stimuli in order to decrease negative emotion), mothers with lower income-to-needs ratio exhibited dampened neural activation in the dorsolateral and ventrolateral PFC, middle frontal and middle temporal gyrus, and caudate. Without explicit instructions to down-regulate (i.e., Maintain condition), mothers experiencing lower income also exhibited dampened response in regulatory areas, including the middle frontal and middle temporal gyrus and caudate. Blunted middle frontal gyrus activation across both Reappraise and Maintain conditions was associated with reduced maternal sensitivity during a mother-child interaction task. Results of the present study demonstrate the influence of socioeconomic disadvantage on prefrontal engagement during emotion regulation, which may have downstream consequences for maternal behaviors.

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Copyright is held by Informa UK Limited. User is responsible for all copyright compliance. This article was originally published as:

Capistrano, C. G., Grande, L. A., McRae, K., Phan, K. L., & Kim, P. (2022). Maternal socioeconomic disadvantage, neural function during volitional emotion regulation, and parenting. Social Neuroscience, 17(3), 276-292.

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Informa UK Limited


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English (eng)

Publication Title

Social Neuroscience



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