Parenting an Early Adolescent: a Pilot Study Examining Neural and Relationship Quality Changes of a Mindfulness Intervention

Lisa M. May, Mora A. Reinka, Jessica M. Tipsord, Joshua C. Felver, Elliot T. Berkman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Relating to adolescent children can be challenging for parents, and yet children’s perceptions of positive parent–child relationships are protective against deleterious outcomes. Therefore, it is valuable to understand and explore strategies that can support positive parent–adolescent relationships during adolescence. The present study investigates the effects of mindfulness training on parents’ neural activity, children’s perceptions of the parent–child relationship, and the relationship between the two. As such, this design allowed us to investigate intervention-induced changes in the parent–child relationship. One parent per family (N = 18) completed a task measuring mindful awareness of breathing during functional magnetic resonance imaging before and after attending an 8-week Mindful Families Stress Reduction (MFSR) course with their early-adolescent children. Across the sample, parent neural activation from pre- to post-intervention increased in areas related to self-awareness and evaluation (precuneus, ventromedial prefrontal cortex), emotional awareness and interoception (mid-insula), and emotion regulation (lateral prefrontal cortex). Changes in parents’ activation in the left anterior insula/inferior frontal gyrus, an area often related to empathy and emotional processing/regulation, were specifically related to changes in children’s reports of the parent–child relationship. The neural regions showing an intervention effect overlapped to a significantly greater degree with emotion regulation-related than attention-related regions. These findings implicate parental empathy and emotion/regulation in children’s perceptions of the family relationship and suggest that parent emotion and/or emotion regulation is a potential mechanism by which mindful parenting interventions affect change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1203-1213
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Attention
  • Emotion regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Parenting
  • Parent–child relationship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Parenting an Early Adolescent: a Pilot Study Examining Neural and Relationship Quality Changes of a Mindfulness Intervention'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this