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When parenting gets under the skin: exploring associations between parental sensitivity and the stress response system in young children

PhD candidate: Hannah Spencer, MSc

Parents play a fundamental role in children’s development. Young children are not only dependent on parents for basic survival needs,  parental warmth and sensitivity also support optimal social-emotional and cognitive functioning later in life.  The current research project examines how early insensitive parenting experiences can get “under the skin” by altering stress reactivity and regulation in offspring, which leads to an increased risk for future psychopathology. In a randomized control trial we will implement a parenting intervention to reinforce parents’ sensitive responsiveness with the aim to improve functioning of the stress response system in young children. Importantly, we will explore how improved parental sensitivity may be associated with changes in the epigenetic regulation of stress system genes and biomarkers of automatic nervous system functioning in young children.

The project is part of NWO VICI project 'When mummy and daddy get under your skin. A new look at how parenting affects children's stress reactivity and disruptive behavior'.

H. (Hannah) Spencer

PhD candidate

Prof. dr. G.J. (Geertjan) Overbeek


Dr. L. (Loes) van Rijn-van Gelderen