Pubertal development mediates the association between family environment and brain structure and function in childhood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Psychosocial acceleration theory suggests that pubertal maturation is accelerated in response to adversity. In addition, suboptimal caregiving accelerates development of the amygdala-medial prefrontal cortex circuit. These findings may be related. Here, we assess whether associations between family environment and measures of the amygdala-medial prefrontal cortex circuit are mediated by pubertal development in more than 2000 9-and 10-year-old children from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study ( Using structural equation modeling, demographic, child-reported, and parent-reported data on family dynamics were compiled into a higher level family environment latent variable. Magnetic resonance imaging preprocessing and compilations were performed by the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study's data analysis core. Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) thickness, area, white matter fractional anisotropy, amygdala volume, and cingulo-opercular network-amygdala resting-state functional connectivity were assessed. For ACC cortical thickness and ACC fractional anisotropy, significant indirect effects indicated that a stressful family environment relates to more advanced pubertal stage and more mature brain structure. For cingulo-opercular network-amygdala functional connectivity, results indicated a trend in the expected direction. For ACC area, evidence for quadratic mediation by pubertal stage was found. Sex-stratified analyses suggest stronger results for girls. Despite small effect sizes, structural measures of circuits important for emotional behavior are associated with family environment and show initial evidence of accelerated pubertal development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)687-702
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding Statement. This project was supported by Rubicon Grant 446-16-022 of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (to S.T.) and NIDA Grant U01DA041120 (to M.L. and P.C.). Data used in the preparation of this article were obtained from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study (, held in the NIMH Data Archive (NDA). This is a multisite, longitudinal study designed to recruit more than 10,000 children age 9–10 and follow them over 10 years into early adulthood. The ABCD Study is supported by the National Institutes of Health and additional federal partners under award numbers U01DA041022, U01DA041025, U01DA041028, U01DA041048, U01DA041089, U01DA041093, U01DA041106, U01DA041117, U01DA041120, U01DA041134, U01DA041148, U01DA041156, U01DA041174, U24DA041123, and U24DA041147. A full list of supporters is available at A listing of participating sites and a complete listing of the study investigators can be found at html. ABCD consortium investigators designed and implemented the study and/or provided data but did not necessarily participate in analysis or writing of this report. This manuscript reflects the views of the authors and may not reflect the opinions or views of the NIH or ABCD consortium investigators.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2019 Cambridge University Press.


  • accelerated development
  • amygdala-medial prefrontal cortex circuit
  • family environment
  • psychosocial acceleration theory
  • pubertal development


Dive into the research topics of 'Pubertal development mediates the association between family environment and brain structure and function in childhood'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this