Studies of early life extremes such as trauma, abuse, and neglect highlight the critical importance of quality caregiving in the development of brain circuits supporting emotional behavior and mental health. The impact of normative variability in caregiving on such biobehavioral processes, however, is poorly understood. Here, we provide initial evidence that even subtle variability in normative caregiving maps onto individual differences in threat-related brain function and, potentially, associated psychopathology in adolescence. Specifically, we report that greater familial affective responsiveness is associated with heightened amygdala reactivity to interpersonal threat, particularly in adolescents having experienced relatively low recent stress. These findings extend the literature on the effects of caregiving extremes on brain function to subtle, normative variability but suggest that presumably protective factors may be associated with increased risk-related amygdala reactivity. We consider these paradoxical associations with regard to studies of basic associative threat learning and further consider their relevance for understanding potential effects of caregiving on psychological development.
- fMRI, amygdala, threat processing, st
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