Father-infant interactions and infant regional brain volumes: A cross-sectional MRI study

Vaheshta Sethna, Jasmine Siew, Inês Pote, Siying Wang, Maria Gudbrandsen, Charlotte Lee, Emily Perry, Kerrie P H Adams, Clare Watson, Johanna Kangas, Vladimira Stoencheva, Eileen Daly, Maria Kuklisova-Murgasova, Steven C R Williams, Michael C Craig, Declan G M Murphy, Grainne M McAlonan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fathers play a crucial role in their children's socio-emotional and cognitive development. A plausible intermediate phenotype underlying this association is father's impact on infant brain. However, research on the association between paternal caregiving and child brain biology is scarce, particularly during infancy. Thus, we used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate the relationship between observed father-infant interactions, specifically paternal sensitivity, and regional brain volumes in a community sample of 3-to-6-month-old infants (N = 28). We controlled for maternal sensitivity and examined the moderating role of infant communication on this relationship. T2-weighted MR images were acquired from infants during natural sleep. Higher levels of paternal sensitivity were associated with smaller cerebellar volumes in infants with high communication levels. In contrast, paternal sensitivity was not associated with subcortical grey matter volumes in the whole sample, and this was similar in infants with both high and low communication levels. This preliminary study provides the first evidence for an association between father-child interactions and variation in infant brain anatomy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100721
JournalDevelopmental cognitive neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Adult
  • Brain/physiopathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Father-Child Relations
  • Fathers
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods
  • Male

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