Family Cohesion Moderates the Relation between Parent–Child Neural Connectivity Pattern Similarity and Youth’s Emotional Adjustment

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Society for Neuroscience


Despite a recent surge in research examining parent–child neural similarity using fMRI, there remains a need for further investigation into how such similarity may play a role in children’s emotional adjustment. Moreover, no prior studies explored the potential contextual factors that may moderate the link between parent–child neural similarity and children’s developmental outcomes. In this study, 32 parent–youth dyads (parents: Mage = 43.53 years, 72% female; children: Mage = 11.69 years, 41% female) watched an emotion-evoking animated film while being scanned using fMRI. We first quantified how similarly emotion network interacts with other brain regions in responding to the emotion-evoking film between parents and their children. We then examined how such parent–child neural similarity is associated with children’s emotional adjustment, with attention to the moderating role of family cohesion. Results revealed that higher parent–child similarity in functional connectivity pattern during movie viewing was associated with better emotional adjustment, including less negative affect, lower anxiety, and greater ego resilience in youth. Moreover, such associations were significant only among families with higher cohesion, but not among families with lower cohesion. The findings advance our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying how children thrive by being in sync and attuned with their parents, and provide novel empirical evidence that the effects of parent–child concordance at the neural level on children’s development are contextually dependent.



connectivity, emotion, family, neural similarity, parent–child dyad, pattern similarity