Maternal socioeconomic disadvantage, neural function during volitional emotion regulation, and parenting

Christian G. Capistrano, Leah A. Grande, Kateri McRae, K. Luan Phan, Pilyoung Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-292
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022

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© 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Emotion regulation
  • cognitive reappraisal
  • fMRI
  • low-income
  • maternal sensitivity
  • parenting
  • socioeconomic status


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